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EPA Adds Requirements on Disposal and Recycling of Solvents and Hazardous Substances

The Fabricator - March 2015

The new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on recycling of hazardous waste will affect many manufacturing sectors, including metal fabricating. The rule goes into effect in July, and adds some regulatory hoops  for companies who have been storing spent solvents on site--maybe with the thought of recycling them some indeterminate time in the future-- land filling them or incinerating them. However, the new rule does not affect the recycling of scrap metal. That has been subject to an exclusion from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, meaning it has never been considered a "hazardous secondary material," and can therefore be sent off for recycling with very few restrictions.

Going forward, the same will not be true for solvents, spent oil and other substances which are considered hazardous secondary materials, therefore also solid waste, but are not subject to any exclusion. Regulatory rules are changing there. Companies who want to continue to accumulate hazardous materials on site will need to get state or federal permits. Those that send the materials offsite will have to comply with new recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

The EPA has been concerned for a decade about solvents and other hazardous materials being land filled, and ending up creating a Superfund site. The agency started a rulemaking all the way back in 2003, but got waylaid by lawsuits, additional studies, and various rulemakings that went nowhere. In 2011, the EPA proposed ending its "transfer" exclusion, which had been in place to shield many hazardous secondary materials from being defined as solid waste. Many industrial sectors erupted in anger.

For fabricators who do want to continue to accumulate wastes on site, the final rule offers a new option called the Certified Recycling Facility option, which comes with considerable recordkeeping, storage requirements, spill prevention, financial assurance, worker training and notification requirements. Under the new "Definition of Solid Waste" (DSW)  rule, manufacturers can register as a Certified Recycling Facility with either the EPA or the state solid waste agency. Facilities who successfully certify under the new rule can stockpile hazardous secondary materials such as solvents and oil. While this option may be attractive to some, most facilities may choose to avoid the regulatory commitments that come with being registered as a Certified Recycling Facility, and opt for the “Generator Option” under the new rule, according to Phillip Retallick, Senior Vice President, Compliance and Regulatory Affairs, Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. Retallick worked for the EPA for 10 years, then as Director of the Delaware Solid and Hazardous Waste Program before coming over to the private sector.

Retallick notes, “The final rule allows fabricators the option to register as a 'generator' with the authorized state environmental program or the EPA, if a state opts not to promulgate the new rule. This option allows the company to collect and store hazardous wastes designated for recycling as long as the yard meets some requirements, such as notifying either the state or the EPA that the yard is a generator subject to the rule, insuring that any hazardous secondary materials are properly collected and stored in proper containers or storage tanks, maintaining records of the amount of secondary hazardous waste collected and stored on-site, documentation showing the amount and description of the secondary hazardous materials sent off-site for recycling and notifying local emergency response officials where the accumulated secondary hazardous wastes are being stored on-site at the salvage yard.

Author bio: 
Mr. Barlas, a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C., covers topics inside the Beltway.