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Frequent Questions About Implementing the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Final Rule

EPA updated the hazardous waste generator regulations in a final rule published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016. Below is a collection of the most frequent questions EPA received during implementation of the rule and during trainings about the updated regulations.

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  • 1. What is the federal effective date of the Generator Improvements Rule and when is it effective in the states?

    The Generator Improvements Rule became effective on May 30, 2017, federally and in those states and U.S. Territories not authorized for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) program (i.e., Iowa, Alaska, tribal lands and most of the territories). In the remainder of the States who are authorized for the RCRA program, the rule will not be effective in a state until the state adopts the rule and adds it to their regulations. (Note that EPA would need to authorize these additional regulations as part of the state’s authorized program in order for EPA to enforce these regulations in that state. However, states can still enforce these additional regulations upon adoption as a matter of state law, even prior to EPA authorization.)

    States must adopt more stringent aspects of the federal rule but can choose whether to adopt aspects of the rule that are less stringent or equally stringent. For those revisions that are more stringent, states are required to adopt the rule by July 1, 2018, or July 1, 2019, if the state regulatory process includes a legislative step.

  • 3. Which provisions in the rule are more stringent, less stringent and equally stringent?

    States must adopt, as part of their generator regulations, all provisions in the final generator rule that are more stringent than the existing provisions. These provisions are the following:

    • Re-notification every four years by small quantity generators.
    • Incompatible wastes must not be placed in the same containers at a satellite accumulation area.
    • Satellite accumulation areas are subject to emergency preparedness and prevention requirements.
    • Labels on waste containers, tanks, and containment buildings must identify the hazards of wastes being accumulated.
    • RCRA waste codes (e.g., F006, D001) must be marked on the waste container prior to shipment off-site.
    • A generator must submit notification to EPA or the authorized state when preparing to close its facility and when that closure has been completed.
    • If a large quantity generator (LQG) that has accumulated hazardous waste in containers cannot meet standards to clean close its facility at the end of its life, it must close as a landfill.
    • If a generator is an LQG any month of the year, it must complete the Biennial Report for all the waste generated in that year, not just the waste generated in the months it was an LQG.
    • Recyclers that do not store prior to recycling must complete and submit the Biennial Report.
    • LQGs must prepare Quick Reference Guides for their contingency plans and submit them to local responders.

    Note, there may be instances where states have existing regulations or policies that are less stringent than the new provisions and thus, may need to be revised to be as stringent as the federal program.

    The provisions in the final generator rule that are less stringent than the previous regulations do not have to be adopted by states because state regulations can be more stringent than the federal regulations. These provisions are the following:

    • Streamlined provisions to allow generators that experience an event outside of normal production to ship that waste off site with a manifest to a RCRA-designated facility without a change to their normal generator category (referred to as Episodic Generation).
    • Allowing LQGs to accept waste from very small quantity generators under the control of the same person for consolidation at the LQG. The consolidated waste then must be shipped from the large quantity generator to a RCRA-designated facility under a hazardous waste manifest, referred to as very small quantity generator (VSQG) to LQG Consolidation.
    • Allowing LQGs that cannot meet the requirement to store ignitable or reactive waste 15 meters from the property line to get a waiver from the local fire authorities if appropriate.

    The remaining revisions in the final rule are clarifications, the reorganization of the regulations, and explanations of the existing rules. Thus, authorized states may, but are not required to, adopt these changes. EPA encourages states to adopt these program improvements.

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Waste Determinations

  • 1. What changed in the Generator Rule for making hazardous waste determinations?

    EPA made the following six changes to the requirements that a generator make a hazardous waste determination found in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 262.11:

    1. Specified that the solid and hazardous waste determination be accurate and expanded on why the hazardous waste determination is important; i.e., to ensure the proper management of the waste within the RCRA framework;
    2. Required the hazardous waste determination for each solid waste be made at the point of waste generation, before any dilution, mixing, or other alteration of the waste occurs, and at any time in the course of its management that it has, or may have, changed its properties as a result of exposure to the environment or other factors, such that its waste classification may have changed;
    3. Incorporated regulatory language that elaborates on how to make a hazardous waste determination for listed and characteristic hazardous waste;
    4. Referenced the applicable RCRA regulations for identifying possible exclusions or exemptions for the hazardous waste in 40 CFR section 262.11(e);
    5. Moved the independent recordkeeping and retention requirements for hazardous waste determinations currently found at 40 CFR section 262.40(c) into section 262.11(f), with clarifications on what records must be kept; and
    6. Required small quantity generators and LQGs to identify the applicable RCRA waste codes for the hazardous waste they have generated, but clarified that the containers only need to be marked with this information before shipping hazardous waste off site to a RCRA permitted treatment, storage, and disposal facility in accordance with the requirements of 40 CFR section 262.32. Note, generators can apply the waste codes to containers prior to that time if they choose to, but it’s not required before that time.
  • 2. What can be considered "generator knowledge" when making a hazardous waste determination?

    To make an accurate determination that the waste is a listed hazardous waste, acceptable knowledge that can be used includes waste origin, composition, the process producing the waste, feedstock and other reliable and relevant information.

    To make an accurate determination that the waste is a characteristic hazardous waste, the generator must apply knowledge of the hazard characteristic of the waste in light of the materials or the processes used to generate the waste. Acceptable knowledge includes:

    • process knowledge (e.g., information about chemical feedstocks and other inputs to the production process);
    • knowledge of products, by-products, and intermediates produced by the manufacturing process;
    • chemical or physical characterization of wastes;
    • information on the chemical and physical properties of the chemicals used or produced by the process or otherwise contained in the waste;
    • testing that illustrates the properties of the waste;
    • or other reliable and relevant information about the properties of the waste or its constituents.

    A test other than a test method set forth in subpart C of 40 CFR part 261 (or an equivalent test method approved by the Administrator under 40 CFR section 260.21) may be used as part of a person's knowledge to determine whether a solid waste exhibits a characteristic of hazardous waste. However, such tests do not, by themselves, provide definitive results.

    When available knowledge is inadequate to make an accurate determination, the person must test the waste according to the applicable methods set forth in subpart C of 40 CFR part 261 (or according to an equivalent method approved by the Administrator under 40 CFR section 260.21). If the generator uses a specified test method, the results of the regulatory test, when properly performed, are considered definitive for making the hazardous waste determination.

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Determining the Quantity of Hazardous Waste

  • 1. Did EPA make substantive changes to the generator categories and the requirements for determining the quantity of hazardous waste?

    In the final generator rule, EPA promulgated new and updated definitions for very small quantity generator (formerly conditionally exempt small quantity generator), small quantity generator, and large quantity generator. However, EPA did not change the monthly generation quantity limits for each category of hazardous waste generator from the previous regulations.

    Likewise, generators have always been required to determine their monthly generator category based on the amount of hazardous waste they generate in that calendar month. The new standards in 40 CFR in section 262.13 provide more information about how to determine the amount of hazardous waste when making a monthly category determination. EPA has also included in the regulation additional discussion of requirements for very small quantity generators mixing hazardous waste and solid waste and moved it into 40 CFR section 262.13(f)(1) from section 261.5. The new section 262.13(f)(2) also includes a reference to the requirements for small and large quantity generators that mix solid and hazardous waste.

  • 2. Does exceeding the accumulation limit of 1,000 kilogram (kg) of hazardous waste for very small quantity generators or 6,000 kg of hazardous waste for small quantity generators change a generator's category?

    For very small quantity and small quantity generators, the RCRA regulations differentiate between the amount of hazardous waste a generator generates per month and the total amount of hazardous waste accumulated on site. A generator's category (very small quantity generator, small quantity generator, or large quantity generator) is defined by how much hazardous waste is generated in that month. As described below, the accumulation limits in the regulations work slightly differently for very small quantity generators and small quantity generators. Large quantity generators have no accumulation limit.

    If a very small quantity generator exceeds the accumulation limit of 1,000 kg of non-acute hazardous waste or 1 kg of acute hazardous waste, the hazardous waste itself must be managed under more stringent standards, but the very small quantity generator’s category does not change. The more stringent standards that apply to waste once the accumulation limit is exceeded are basically small quantity generator standards for exceeding the accumulation limit of 1,000 kg of non-acute hazardous waste and large quantity generator standards for exceeding the accumulation limit of 1 kg of acute hazardous waste.

    For small quantity generators, the 6,000 kg accumulation limit is a condition of the generator’s exemption from permitting requirements. Because a small quantity generator can only generate up to 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per month, if the SQG has accumulated more than 6,000 kg of hazardous waste on-site (and does not have an extension for accumulation beyond the 180 days—approximately 6 months—that are allowed), this is an indication that the generator either was generating more than 1,000 kg for one or more months or has accumulated the hazardous waste for more than 180 days. In this situation, the small quantity generator can choose to become a large quantity generator and manage the hazardous waste as a large quantity generator. Alternatively, the small quantity generator will lose its exemption from regulation as a storage facility and be subject to the requirements in 40 CFR parts 264 through 267, part 270, and the notification requirements at section 3010 of RCRA.

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Marking and Labeling

  • 2. When do waste codes need to be applied to the container?

    The RCRA waste codes must be placed on the containers before shipping hazardous waste off site to a RCRA permitted treatment, storage and disposal facility but do not need to be applied before that time. An electronic system, such as a bar code system, is acceptable as long as the RCRA waste code(s) are tied to the specific container.

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VSQG to LQG Consolidation Under the Control of the Same Person

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Episodic Generation

  • 1. What is an “episodic event”?

    An episodic event, as defined in 40 CFR section 262.231 of the generator regulations, is an activity that does not normally occur during a generator’s operations and that causes that generator to exceed the threshold for its normal generator category for that month. Both very small quantity generators and small quantity generators can experience episodic events. Episodic events can be planned or unplanned. A clean out of a tank or of a laboratory, a short-term maintenance project, or a removal of excess inventory would be considered planned episodic events. There can also be unplanned events such as a spill caused by a storm, damaged equipment, or a product recall. An episodic event cannot last more than 60 days beginning on the first day episodic hazardous waste is generated and concluding on the day the hazardous waste is removed from the generator’s site. Increased production of hazardous waste due to an increased rate of production is not an episodic event.

  • 3. What happens if you have an unplanned episodic event and you don’t initially know if your waste is hazardous?

    When an unplanned episodic event occurs, the generator may not know immediately if the waste generated is hazardous or non-hazardous. If enough waste has been generated that the generator would be bumped into a higher generator category (small or large quantity generator) if it is hazardous, the generator must notify EPA or the authorized state within 72 hours. EPA recommends the generator use EPA Form 8700-12 (Site ID Form) to notify that an episodic event has occurred and begin managing the waste under the episodic generation provisions.

    Very small quantity generators must manage the waste in a manner that minimizes the possibility of a fire, explosion, or release and small quantity generators must manage the waste under the container and tank standards in 40 CFR section 262.16. All generators must label the waste with the words “Episodic Hazardous Waste,” with a word, placard or pictogram that identifies what the hazards are that the waste poses, and with the start date of the episodic event.

    If the waste turns out not to be hazardous, the generator can work with EPA or the authorized state to cancel the unnecessary episodic event so it does not count toward their limit for the year. The recommendation to manage the waste in a conservative manner under the assumption that it might turn out to be hazardous waste is consistent with EPA’s guidance for the generation of any new waste that has not gone through a hazardous waste determination yet.

  • 5. When does the 60-day limit for an episodic event start?

    The 60-day limit for a planned episodic event starts on the first day of any activities affiliated with the event. For an unplanned episodic event, the event begins on the first day the hazardous waste is generated, regardless of whether the generator has completed analysis confirming that the waste is hazardous.

  • 6. By when does the hazardous waste have to be transported off-site?

    The very small quantity generator or the small quantity generator has 60 days from the start of the event to complete it and ship all the hazardous waste off site to a RCRA-designated facility for treatment, storage, or disposal. If the hazardous waste is not off site within 60 days, then it must be counted toward the generator's monthly generation levels.

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Satellite Accumulation Areas

  • 1. When is a generator allowed to have open containers at a satellite accumulation area?

    Under limited circumstances, a generator is allowed to have open containers in a satellite accumulation area. Generators have always been allowed to have a container open when adding, removing, or consolidating waste. EPA is now allowing for the satellite accumulation area container to be open when temporary venting of a container is necessary:

    1. for the proper operation of equipment, or
    2. to prevent dangerous situations, such as build-up of extreme pressure.

    EPA stresses it does not intend to create a loophole to the closed container requirement or to allow intentional evaporation of hazardous waste. Rather, temporarily allowing for an open container is intended to apply in the limited cases where “strict adherence to the 'container closure' requirements could substantially increase a risk of a hazardous waste incident rather than decrease it.”

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Emergency Preparedness and Prevention

  • 1. What are a generator’s requirements for “making arrangements” with local emergency responders?

    Both small quantity generators and large quantity generators have long been required to make arrangements with local emergency responders that are appropriate for the type of waste being handled by the generator. These arrangements include familiarizing local responders with the layout of the facility, the properties of the hazardous waste on site at the facility, where personnel are likely to be working at the facility and possible evacuation routes. Generators have always had to document if they were unable to make these arrangements with state or local authorities. These requirements were found in the previous regulations in 40 CFR section 262.34 (and containing a reference to section 265.37 in part 265 subpart C) for both small and large quantity generators.

    The final Generator Improvements Rule has copied this requirement into 40 CFR part 262 at section 262.16(b)(8)(vi) for small quantity generators and section 262.256 for large quantity generators. The new regulations also added a requirement that the generator must keep documentation of the fact that it has made arrangements with local emergency responders, adding to the existing requirement that the generator document if it cannot make the arrangements.

  • 4. What elements have to be included in a large quantity generator’s Quick Reference Guide?

    The Quick Reference Guide includes eight elements that are critical to local responders when an emergency is occurring at a facility:

    1. The types and names of the hazardous wastes on site and their hazard in layman’s terms (e.g., toxic paint wastes, spent ignitable solvents);
    2. An estimated maximum amount of each hazardous waste on site at any one time;
    3. The identification of any hazardous waste that would require unique or special treatment by medical staff in the event of exposure;
    4. A map of the facility identifying where hazardous waste may be located;
    5. A street map of the facility in relation to surrounding businesses, residences, and schools;
    6. The location of the water supply;
    7. Information about any on-site notification systems to communicate with people at the facility; and
    8. The name of an emergency coordinator available at any time.

    EPA recommends that large quantity generators discuss the appropriate contents of the Quick Reference Guide when making arrangements with local emergency responders to coordinate on whether any additional information would be useful to those responders in the case of an emergency.

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  • 1. What does a large quantity generator have to do when closing a central accumulation area (90-day accumulation area), but not the entire facility?

    A large quantity generator may choose one of the following two options to ensure that upon closure this accumulation area will be identified as a former accumulation area for hazardous waste:

    1. Place a notice in the operating record within 30 days after closing the waste accumulation unit that identifies the unit’s location within the facility. Applicable closure performance standards can then be addressed later when the entire facility closes. If necessary, the notice can be removed from the operating record at any point before closing the facility if the waste accumulation unit is put back into service. This is the option we expect most large quantity generators will choose to employ; or
    2. Notify the regional EPA Administrator no later than 90 days after closing the unit. The large quantity generator should have met the closure performance standards in 40 CFR section 262.17(a)(8)(iii) on or before the date they submit the 90-day notification. If a large quantity generator needs longer than 90 days to comply with the closure performance standards, they must submit an extension request to the Administrator no later than 75 days after closure.
  • 4. If a generator was a large quantity generator for all or most of its existence except the last few months prior to closure, does it have to comply with the closure requirements?

    EPA recommends that a generator that has had fluctuating generator categories work with its state to determine whether it must comply with the closure requirements. Technically, if a generator has ever been a large quantity generator during its lifetime, the closure provisions apply. However, EPA or the state will make a case-by-case determination based on the facts of the situation. For example, a facility that was a large quantity generator for 20 years and then dropped down to a small quantity generator for six months before closing, would most likely be subject to the closure requirements. Conversely, a facility that was a small quantity generator for twenty years but was a large quantity generator for the last six months before closure, may not have to undergo closure.

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Last updated on February 21, 2018