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Storing Hazardous Waste: Don’t let your Satellite Accumulation Areas Cost you Millions in Fines
This blog discusses the implications of hazardous waste "satellite accumulation area rules" and why household companies like Whole Foods, Walmart, Comcast, etc. have recently been hit with severe fines for non-compliance with these rules.
The disclosure of multi-million dollar fines paid by household companies such as Home Depot ($27.8M), Walmart ($27.7M), Comcast ($25.9M), and FedEx ($3.4M) all found to be in violation of prolonged hazardous waste disposal reveals that excessive stormwater fines do not discriminate. In an ironic twist, health food giant Whole Foods paid $1.64 million dollars as part of an enforcement action from September 2018 that reconciled the inadequate disposal of hazardous materials from Whole Foods stores in over 21 California cities. The initial lawsuit alleged that the chain mishandled disposal of aerosols, batteries, and other corrosive or toxic agents such as cleaning supplies over a five-year period. The company-wide investigation started with one store in Yolo County, California that lacked hazardous waste handling instructions for employees. In addition to the $237,000 environmental project fine, Whole Foods was required to reform procedures for labeling hazardous materials and improve staff training and management in the handling of hazardous waste.
Satellite Accumulation Area RulesA satellite accumulation area is defined as a “place at or near any point of generation where dangerous waste is initially accumulated in containers before consolidating the waste at a designated accumulation…or storage area.” To recap, under the regulations for satellite accumulation areas enforced by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) in California, a generator may only accumulate up to 55-gallons of hazardous waste (or one quart of extremely hazardous waste) without a permit at the initial point of accumulation, for up to one year. In addition, a facility must ensure all containers comply with Title 22 Code Regulations, meaning that the initial date of placement inside the container and label of “hazardous material” is clearly visible and describes the material, physical state, and particular hazardous properties of the material within. Furthermore, on the date that the 55-gallon limit is reached, the waste must be moved to a new 90-day container in a separate designated accumulation area and again clearly labeled. Alternatively, waste may be moved to an authorized onsite or offsite hazardous waste facility within three days of reaching the accumulation limit but for a maximum of one year . In order for a facility to seek exemptions to the satellite accumulation rules, it must meet four particular criteria. These include:
- The facility stores hazardous wastes in containers,
- The hazardous waste must be accumulated “at the initial accumulation point…near where the waste is generated”,
- The initial accumulation point must be under the control of the operator of the process generating the waste, and
- The satellite accumulation point must meet the proper process requirements and is subject to a single 55-gallon (or one quart) accumulation limit.