Generator Improvement Rule: Relief for Hazardous Waste Generators?

Well, certainly some relief for the very little ones – what we used to call “conditionally exempt small quantity generators” – henceforth (or beginning on the effective date of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule, published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016) to be known as Very Small Quantity Generators or VSQGs.

The Hazardous Waste Generator Improvement Rule, which EPA describes as the culmination of a review that began over 10 years ago, is meant to “improve program effectiveness, reduce compliance costs, and foster an improved relationship with states and the regulated communities.”

The final rule contains a number of provisions which EPA identifies as “more stringent”, including marking and labeling of wastes to identify hazards, Small Quantity Generator recertification, notification of facility closure and requirement that a Large Quantity Generator close as a landfill if it cannot meet closure standards, extending biennial reporting for the whole year rather than just months when the facility was an LQG, biennial reporting for recyclers even when they do not store waste prior to recycling, and a requirement that LQGs provide a “quick reference guide” for distribution with their Contingency Plans. “More stringent” standards must be adopted by states that manage their own hazardous waste programs.

The rule also contains “less stringent” provisions, of a kind that may elicit appreciative nods from industries. These address (1) consolidation of VSQG waste at a LQG facility under the same ownership; (2) allowing VSQGs and SQGs to retain their classification in the event that “episodic generation” would bump them up to a higher generator category; and (3) waiver from the requirement that ignitable and reactive wastes be stored at least 50 feet from a facility’s property line under certain circumstances.

The “more stringent” provisions include:

Marking and Labeling
Hazardous waste containers and tanks must have labels that indicate the hazards of the stored material, but the rule allows flexibility in how the information is provided. For instance, NFPA or HMIS chemical hazard labels, OSHA GHS hazard statements or pictograms, or the hazardous waste characteristic (e.g., ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic) may be used. For generators that accumulate their waste in containment buildings or on drip pads, the information can be maintained in accessible logs or records. Further, waste containers must be marked with the waste ID code prior to shipment.

Small Quantity Generator Recertification
Once every four years, at minimum, SQGs will be required to resubmit notice of their generator status. (The initial compliance date for this provision will be in 2021.)

Closure Requirements for Large Quantity Generators
The rule requires LQGs accumulating waste in containers that fail to “clean close” to meet landfill closure requirements for their container storage areas. An LQG must provide notification of closure to EPA or the state both before and after closing the facility.

Biennial Reporting
A LQG must report all wastes generated and managed within the reporting year, including those months when the facility was a small quantity generator. Recyclers that are exempt from hazardous waste permitting because they don’t store wastes must report wastes that were recycled.

Contingency Plans
A new LQG will be required to submit a “quick reference guide” or executive summary of its contingency plan to each local responder with a copy of the plan. Existing LQGs also must provide to local responders the quick reference guide, as well as the contingency plan, upon amendments or revisions to the plan. The rule identifies 8 elements that must be included in the quick reference guide. In addition, the rule clarifies the requirement that generators document their efforts to make arrangements with local emergency response authorities.

Provisions that offer relief:

Consolidation of VSQG Wastes
VSQGs can send their hazardous wastes to an LQG facility under control of the same company. To do so, the VSQG must label its waste containers with “Hazardous Waste” and the hazards of the contents. The VSQG remains exempt from using the hazardous waste manifest system or a hazardous waste transporter to ship the waste to the LQG. The LQG facility provides notification that it is handling this waste and identifying the facilities that send waste its way, maintains records of the materials and manages the VSQG wastes as its own (ensuring delivery to a proper treatment, storage, disposal or recycling facility).

Episodic Generators
The rule allows episodic generators (VSQGs or SQGs) to maintain their generator status if they exceed the limits on monthly generation for the classification one time per year (they can petition for a second event, depending on circumstances). In addition to notification in advance of a planned event or immediately after if unplanned, the generator must comply with requirements to conclude the event (i.e., deliver the waste for proper disposition) within 60 days and comply with a limited set of requirements that are already applicable to small quantity generators.

Ignitable and Reactive Wastes
Large Quantity Generators that store ignitable or reactive wastes in containers have the option to request from local fire marshal a waiver from the requirement for a 50-foot setback between the accumulation area for these containers and the property line.

The generator improvement rule clarifies and expands on other requirements (e.g. satellite accumulation areas, documenting accumulation time for wastes in tanks, conditions exempting a generator from storage facility requirements) as well.

The effective date for the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule is May 30, 2017. On that date, however, the rule takes effect only on the federal level (territories and tribal lands) and in Iowa and Alaska. Where authority to enforce the hazardous waste program has been delegated to the state (i.e., everywhere else), the state will have until July 1, 2018 – or a year longer, if changes to state law are necessary – to adopt the more stringent provisions of the rule. States can choose to adopt the less or equally stringent provisions at their leisure, or not at all (which could complicate things for VSQGs that wish to ship hazardous waste to LQGs in another state).

So, a lot to digest in this rule to improve and clarify the existing rules. If you need more information or assistance with your hazardous waste management and compliance activities, please contact T. Cozzie Consulting.