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Hazardous Waste

Treatment Standards for Hazardous Wastes Subject to Land Disposal Restrictions

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What Treatment Standards Apply to My Hazardous Waste?

Hazardous waste that is destined for land disposal must meet all applicable treatment standards prior to land disposal. Treatment standards for hazardous wastes are found in the treatment standards table at Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in section 268.40. A small portion of this table is shown below for purposes of illustration.

Waste Code Waste Description and Treatment/Regulatory subcategory

Regulated Hazardous Constituent

Common name; Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) number


Concentration in milligram (mg)/liter (L) or Technology Code


Concentration in mg/kilogram (kg) unless noted as “mg/L Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP)” or Technology Code

K010 Distillation side cuts from the production of acetaldehyde from ethylene Chloroform; 67-66-3 0.046 6.0
K045 Spent carbon from the treatment of wastewater containing explosive Not applicable DEACT* DEACT*

*DEACT is defined in 40 CFR Part 268.42 as deactivation to remove the hazardous characteristics of a waste due to its ignitability, corrosivity, and/or reactivity.

The first column (waste code) assists the waste handler in locating all the EPA hazardous waste codes applicable to the waste. The second column (Waste Description and Treatment/Regulatory subcategory) describes the waste in more detail. For listed hazardous wastes the column describes the listed waste. For characteristic waste, the description specifies either ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity or the toxicity characteristic.

The third column (Regulated Hazardous Constituent) lists the specific regulated hazardous constituents that must be treated. This determination can be made either by performing a chemical analysis of the waste or by applying your knowledge or “best engineering judgment.” This determination must be documented. Treatment standards, identified in the fourth and fifth columns, differ depending on whether the waste is a wastewater or nonwastewater form. Waste handlers must determine the category in which their waste best fits to determine the appropriate treatment standard at the point of waste generation.

All treatment standards are expressed as either numerical standards or required methods of treatment. To meet treatment standards, regulated hazardous constituents in the waste must be at or below the specified concentrations (or numerical standards) prior to land disposal.

Compliance with these numerical standards are based on grab sampling. When a treatment standard specifies a method of treatment, the waste must undergo that method of treatment before land disposal can take place. See 40 CFR section 268.42, Table 1 for a description of hazardous waste treatment technologies.

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Special Treatment Requirements for Characteristic Wastes

EPA established special rules for characteristic waste in 40 CFR section 268.9. Characteristic wastes are regulated somewhat differently from listed wastes because a characteristic waste that is “decharacterized” as a result of treatment can be disposed in nonhazardous, solid waste (i.e., subtitle D) land-based units.

When a characteristic waste is “decharacterized” it no longer exhibits a hazardous waste characteristic. However these decharacterized wastes may still contain “underlying hazardous constituents” or UHCs that also must be treated. Characteristic wastes cannot be land disposed until they meet all applicable treatment standards for the waste characteristic and UHCs.

There are four hazardous waste characteristics - ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity. A discussion of the land disposal restrictions requirements for each characteristic is below.

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Ignitable Wastes

For the purposes of LDR, ignitable wastes are divided into two subcategories:

  1. wastes with greater than or equal to 10 percent TOC which are by definition are nonwastewaters and
  2. all other ignitable wastes. 

Ignitable nonwastewaters must be treated either by combustion, recovery or organic or polymerization. Ignitable wastewaters can be treated in one of three ways:

  1. removal of the characteristic by deactivation and treatment of any UHC to the UTS;
  2. combustion; or
  3. recovery of organics.

If the waste has less than 10 percent TOC and is being managed in a Clean Water Act (CWA), CWA-equivalent, or Class 1 Safe Drinking Water Act system, the treatment standard requires deactivation to remove the characteristic.

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Corrosive Wastes

Corrosive wastes are divided into two subcategories. Most corrosive waste will fall into this first category and require removal of the characteristic by deactivation and treatment of UHCs to meet the UTS. Corrosive wastes managed in CWA, CWA-equivalent or Class I SDWA system, the treatment standard is removal of the corrosivity characteristic by deactivation.

The second subcategory of corrosive wastes also contain high-level radioactive wastes generated during the reprocessing of fuel rods. These wastes must be treated by high-level radioactive waste vitrification.

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Reactive Wastes

For the most part, reactive wastes must be treated by deactivation and treatment of UHCs to meet the UTS. There are however exceptions. For deactivated reactive wastewaters destined for a CWA-, CWA-equivalent, or SDWA Class I injection well systems and unexploded ordinance (UXO) and other explosive devices which have been the subject of an emergency response, deactivation is the only treatment requirement (i.e., no treatment for UHCs). Reactive cyanide wastes must be treated to specific concentration-based standard: 590 mg/kg total and 30 mg/kg amenable cyanide for nonwastewaters 0.86 mg/L amenable cyanide for wastewaters.

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Toxicity Characteristic Wastes

There are three types of toxicity characteristic (TC) constituents: metals, pesticides, and organics. For metal toxicity characteristic wastes, subcategories of waste types have been created to account for different forms of the waste or circumstances in which the waste was generated. Treatment standards for all toxicity characteristic hazardous wastes depend largely upon the method by which the waste will be disposed. Most wastes must be treated to a specific numerical treatment standard and meet the UTS standard under 40 CFR in section 268.48 for UHCs.

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What Are the LDR Alternative Treatment Standards?

For certain types of hazardous waste, e.g., soil, debris, lab packs, and residues from high temperature, EPA established alternative treatment standards to allow for common sense management of these wastes. These treatment standards are optional and waste handlers can comply with either the “as-generated” treatment standards or the alternative standards.

Alternative Debris Treatment Standards

These standards apply to any material defined as debris that either is contaminated with (contains) a listed waste or exhibits a characteristic. There are three subcategories of debris:

  • Mixtures of debris types - If hazardous debris consists of more than one type of debris (e.g., glass, metals or plastic), the waste handler must meet the treatment standard for each type of debris
  • Mixtures of contaminants types - If hazardous debris of one type is contaminated with more than on contaminant, then each of the contaminants must be treated with the specified treatment technology.
  • Waste polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - If hazardous debris is contaminated with PCBs, then the waste is subject to the treatment requirements specified at either 40 CFR part 761 (regulations for material controlled under the Toxic Substances Control Act) or 40 CFR section 268.45.

To meet the alternative debris standards, specific constituents must be treated before the debris can be land disposed. These comprise the “contaminants subject to treatment”. Once a determination is made regarding what constituents must be treated in the debris, the next step is determining what type of treatment or combination of treatment will address all the constituents. The alternative treatment standard for hazardous debris are divided into three technology types: extraction, destruction, and immobilization. Residues from the treatment of hazardous debris must be separated from the treated debris and treated to meet the waste-specific treatment standards in 40 CFR section 268.40.

If hazardous debris is treated with either an extraction or destruction treatment technology, and does not exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic it need not be managed in a hazardous waste unit. However, hazardous debris treated by immobilization remains hazardous and must be treated in a hazardous waste unit.

On August 18, 1992, EPA finalized treatment standards under the land disposal restrictions (LDR) program for certain hazardous wastes listed after November 8, 1984, pursuant to a proposed consent decree filed with the District Court that established a promulgation date of June 1992 (EDF v. Reilly, Civ. No. 89-0598, D.D.C.). In this rule, EPA also finalized revised treatment standards for debris contaminated with listed hazardous waste or debris that exhibits certain hazardous waste characteristics, and several revisions to previously promulgated standards and requirements. Read more in the LDR Phase II final rule establishing these debris standards (starting on page 37194 of the August 18, 1992 Federal Register notice (328 pp, 78 MB, About PDF)).

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Alternative Treatment Standard for Soil

The alternative soil treatment standards were designed to encourage more feasible cleanup of hazardous contaminated soils subject to LDRs. Before these standards were developed a waste handler was required to meet the “as-generated” treatment standards that often proved to be inappropriate or unachievable for contaminated soils and a major disincentive to cleanup.

Under the alternative soil standards, a contaminated soil has two treatment requirement alternatives:

  • Hazardous constituents must be reduced by at least 90 percent through treatment so than no more than 10 percent of their initial concentration remains or comparable reduction in mobility for metals; or
  • Hazardous constituents must not exceed 10 times the universal treatment standard or UTS.

Before treatment standards apply to contaminated soils, a soil must first “contain” hazardous waste. Under RCRA, soil is not a solid waste, but is must be managed as a hazardous waste if it “contains” hazardous waste. Soil “contains” hazardous waste if, when it is generated it.

  • is contaminated by a listed hazardous waste; or
  • exhibits a hazardous waste characteristic.

A contaminated solid that is going to be used in products that are subsequently used in a manner constituting disposal must meet the treatment standards developed for “as-generated” waste at 40 CFR section 268.40.

Resources that may be helpful are below:

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Alternative Treatment Standard for Lab Packs

The LDR program has also established alternative treatment standards for certain hazardous waste packaged in lab packs. A lab pack consists of small containers of wastes over-packed in a larger container. Lab packs may be incinerated with no requirement to measure compliance with waste concentration levels, provided they do not contain any of the waste listed in 40 CFR part 268, Appendix IV. Residues from incineration of any lab pack containing arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium, or silver must meet the treatment standards for these metals found in the table of 40 CFR section 268.48.

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Does the LDR Program Allow Variances from the Treatment Requirements?

There exist certain unique wastes for which the treatment standards cannot be achieved. For these situations EPA has established a process where a treatment variance can be granted by the Agency or an authorized state. A treatment variance does not exempt your wastes from treatment, but rather establishes an alternative LDR treatment standard.

Under certain circumstances, EPA will allow wastes to be placed in land disposal units without first meeting their treatment standards. This type of variance is called a “no-migration” variance.

If you're considering a variance, the following resources may be useful to you:

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Additional Resources

Title Description

Memorandum Clarifying the RCRA Contained-In Policy (PDF)(12 pp, 51.3 K, About PDF)

Memorandum from Shapiro to Wright dated September 15, 1995 which provides responses to five questions on RCRA’s "contained-in" policy.

  1. Can a State determine whether or not soils which contained a listed hazardous waste, but were then treated to below health based concentrations, no longer contain the hazardous waste?
  2. Are soils that have been treated and then determined not to contain hazardous wastes still subject to the LDR Universal Treatment Standards (UTS) prior to land disposal?
  3. If groundwater that originally exhibited a hazardous characteristic is subsequently treated to below a State-determined concentration standard still subject to the UTS requirements prior to land disposal?
  4. May a State that is authorized only for the base RCRA program make contained-in determinations, or does the State need to be authorized for the LDRs as well?
  5. Do contained-in determinations needed to be made under a RCRA permit, or can another mechanism be used?
Use of Corrective Action Management Unit Concept (PDF)(8 pp, 42.6 K, About PDF) Memorandum from Lowrance and Diamond to Regions dated August 31, 1992 providing guidance on the regulatory concept known as the Corrective Action Management Unit or CAMU, which was designed to facilitate effective and protective remedial actions. This concept, first discussed in the proposed Subpart S corrective action regulations (55 FR 30798, July 27, 1990), is similar to the Superfund concept of the "area of contamination," in which broad areas of contamination, often including specific subunits, are considered to be a single land disposal unit for remedial purposes.
Superfund LDR Guide #7. Determining When Land Disposal Restrictions are Relevant and Appropriate CERCLA Response Actions (2 pp, 315 K, About PDF) This guide outlines the process used to determine when RCRA land disposal restrictions are "relevant and appropriate" to an on-site Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) response action.
Use of “Area of Contamination” Concept During RCRA Cleanups (PDF)(5 pp, 37.8 K, About PDF) Letter from Shapiro to Nosenchuck dated March 25, 1996, which provides additional information and guidance on the scope and applicability of the Area of Contamination (AOC) concept during cleanups regulated under the RCRA.
Impact of LDR on Class I Hazardous Waste Injection Wells Web page explaining the impact of RCRA land disposal restrictions on Class I hazardous waste injection. The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) to the RCRA prohibit land disposal of restricted hazardous waste. The prohibition includes injection of hazardous waste into Class I wells.

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