Q&A: Regulating Waste
Q: How is waste regulated?
A: Waste is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which gives the EPA the authority to control solid and hazardous waste in a “cradle-to-grave” management system. This includes the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The RCRA also provides framework for the management of non-hazardous solid wastes.
Additionally, some state agencies have authorized waste programs that are more stringent than the EPA’s regulations. For example, federal standards require large quantity generators of hazardous waste to submit biennial reports summarizing the hazardous waste shipped off during odd-numbered years. In contrast, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requires generators to submit those reports on an annual basis.
Q: What are waste generators responsible for?
A: Under the RCRA, waste generators are responsible for the waste they produce and maintaining the liability. To determine which regulations apply, a waste generator must categorize the produced waste as hazardous or non-hazardous and classify their facility as a large quantity generator, small quantity generator, or very small quantity generator.
Waste management is also a factor during site remediation. While a contractor may provide a service that generates waste, that waste is still considered a product of the site; the owner/operator and contractor are responsible for properly managing and disposing of the waste.
The location the waste is transported to depends on several factors, including the receiving facility’s requirements, generator liability, and cost. With a remediation site, contaminated soil may need to be characterized through laboratory testing and sent to a facility for thermal treatment to make sure it meets acceptance requirements before disposal at a landfill. It is also important to note that sites generating hazardous waste may be required to obtain an EPA Identification number, file reports, complete training, and maintain certain records depending on the facility’s classification level.
Regardless of these factors, the most crucial component to remember is that even if a transporter or disposal facility mishandles a generator’s waste, the generator is still responsible for that waste from “cradle to grave” and, as a result, is liable for any related clean-up costs.
About Emily Clark, PE
Emily Clark is a Project Engineer with over 10 years of experience in environmental investigation and remediation of contaminated sites in New Jersey. Her primary focus is on industrial sites undergoing remediation in the LSRP program, covering many phases of site remediation including investigation, design, remedial action and monitoring related to soil, groundwater, vapor intrusion, and LNAPL. She also has experience managing large datasets, and is actively involved in environmental education and outreach initiatives.
About Katie Childs
Katie Childs is a Project Scientist based in Langan’s Cleveland office. She has over nine years of experience in the environmental industry, focused primarily on multimedia regulatory compliance. She is also experienced in multimedia compliance audits, regulatory enforcement cases, self-disclosure reporting, emissions calculations, stormwater/wastewater permitting, spill/contingency plans, and annual regulatory reporting (air, waste, stormwater, EPCRA).