Complying with hazardous waste laws can be confusing, and it’s an area where one honest mistake can get you painted as a villain in the press. Take AutoNation for example, who settled a $3.4 million settlement for illegal disposal. Here are the five most common sources of hazardous waste violations and how to prevent them.
1. Inadequate labeling and marking of hazardous waste.Solution. Make a habit of doing a weekly inspection/site walk. (Failure to conduct weekly inspections of hazardous waste areas is a violation.) Each container needs to be labeled with the words “HAZARDOUS WASTE”, as well as the Accumulation Date (the date the waste was generated). This date allows regulators to verify you aren’t storing waste longer than you’re allowed (90 days for Large Quantity Generator or 180 days for Small Quantity Generator). Make sure to include Generator’s Name and Address information, and Manifest Document Number when the waste is intended for off-site shipment.
Verify that labels are:
- in good shape
- inclusive of all necessary information
- displayed in obvious locations
- up-to-date – old labels should be removed or painted over if you are reusing containers
2. Failure to keep containers closed.This one’s easy for inspectors to get you with. Open containers or “improper use of operating funnels/lids” is not cool with these people. To be considered truly “closed,” lids must prevent both leaks and vapors from escaping. Solution. Post reminder notices and brief your employees to make sure they know to keep containers closed, especially if there is a high turnover rate at your facility. Hazmats can react with oxygen so this lid business is not a joke: you can be charged with “conducting treatment without a permit” due to a reduction of waste by evaporation.
3. Hazardous Materials Business Plans (HMBP), Contingency/Emergency Response Plans and Employee Training inadequate.HMBPs and contingency plans can be a hassle, but they do provide information necessary for first responders and can help mitigate damage to public health when, er, smoke hits the fan. When two explosions erupted at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, at least 15 police officers and first responders had to be treated for smoke inhalation. If your facility handles hazardous waste, your plan must reflect your state’s latest guidelines and standards. “Adequate training” is required for anyone who handles hazardous waste, and employees must get an annual “refresher training.” Solution. Assign plan updates to a specific person. Make sure this emergency contact is identified in your plan, and review plans at least once a year. If there is a change in personnel, make sure the plan is updated ASAP. New employees involved with hazardous materials/waste must receive initial training within 6 months and cannot handle hazardous waste without supervision. Existing employees must receive an annual “refresher training.” Your contingency response plan boils down to knowing the following 3 things during an emergency:
- Who’s in charge
- What to do
- Where to go
4. Incorrect chemical inventory and California Environmental Reporting System (CERS) Reporting.Solution. Make sure to include the following on your chemical inventory report:
- Common name of the waste
- Maximum amount in storage at any one time
- Annual waste amount
- Physical state of waste
- Unit of measurement that correlates with physical state
- Federal hazard categories for hazardous waste
- 55 Gallons of liquid (one drum)
- 200 Cubic Feet of compressed gas
- 500 Pounds of solids