June 15, 2022

Quick Reference Guide FAQ

EPA recently published RO 14943, which answers frequently asked questions and clarifies RCRA regulations for the quick reference guide (QRG) provisions of the contingency plan requirements for large quantity generators (LQGs) in Part 262, Subpart M. The QRG provisions were added to the federal regulations by the 2016 hazardous waste generator improvements rule. [81 FR 85732] The new guidance answers over a dozen questions on the QRG, including the following:

Q. Does the QRG have to be a separate document from the contingency plan?

A. The QRG does not have to be a separate document but should be easily separable from the contingency plan and accessible to the emergency response team.

Q. If central accumulation areas (CAAs) or satellite accumulation areas (SAAs) are temporary, do they have to be included in maps in the QRG and do they have to maintain required signage?

A. All hazardous waste accumulation areas must be identified in the QRG. Temporary accumulation areas are subject to the same requirements as permanent accumulation areas, including labeling and including in the QRG. Input from emergency responders may be necessary to determine the appropriate level of specificity for some facilities where temporary waste accumulation areas are common.

Although signage is not a federal RCRA requirement for temporary or permanent accumulation areas, states may be more stringent. In either case, it is considered best practice.

Q. An LQG frequently changes the waste it accumulates in an SAA (e.g., daily). How can the LQG stay compliant with the QRG requirements?

A. The QRG must identify the types, common names, and hazards of the wastes present on the site (e.g., toxic paint wastes, spent ignitable solvents, corrosive acid). Furthermore, generators are not required to link hazardous wastes to a specific location in the QRG, although they may choose to do so. The regulations only require generators to identify the wastes and associated hazards that may be present at the facility overall. For example, if the types of hazardous wastes being accumulated in an SAA vary amongst the different types of wastes already listed in the QRG, no QRG update is necessary. However, if an entirely new hazardous waste is generated, both a contingency plan and QRG update are required per §262.263.

Q. How can an LQG best stay compliant with the QRG requirement if the locations of SAAs change frequently (e.g., batch operations or shipyards)?

A. If a facility has frequently changing SAA locations, the level of detail required in the QRG may be impacted. The generator may be able to identify the general area or building in which the SAAs are located on their facility map. EPA recommends the facility obtain emergency responder input on how detailed facility maps should be in terms of identifying waste accumulation areas.

Q. When does an LQG have to update its contingency plan?

A. The regulations in §262.263 define five situations where an LQG must review and, if necessary, update its contingency plan:

  1. When applicable regulations are revised and require a change;
  2. When a plan fails in an emergency;
  3. When a generator facility changes (i.e., design, construction, operation, maintenance, or other circumstances) in a way that materially increases the potential for fires, explosions, or releases of hazardous waste or constituents, or changes the necessary response in an emergency;
  4. When the list of emergency coordinators changes; or
  5. When the list of emergency equipment changes.

Q. Does opening a new SAA or generating a new waste with similar hazards trigger the need to update the contingency plan? What if an LQG begins generating a hazardous waste with a characteristic not already present at the facility?

A. Section 262.263(c) requires an update to contingency plans and QRGs when changes to a facility “materially increase” the risks associated with hazardous waste. Therefore, it may not be necessary to update the QRG for small changes like opening an additional SAA. Generators should work with their emergency responders to determine what constitutes a “material increase” of risks and make sure to update their QRG accordingly. On the other hand, introducing a new hazardous waste with characteristics not addressed in the existing QRG would likely materially increase the risks posed, thereby requiring a QRG update.

Q. If an LQG has existing systems for keeping track of where waste is being generated, how can these systems be used to comply with the QRG requirements?

A. Existing on-site hazardous waste tracking mechanisms may be a helpful tool for constructing the QRG, but they cannot be used as a substitute. Also, digital QRGs are allowed under the federal regulations, but the agency recommends you coordinate with emergency responders on the format and content. In the preamble to the generator improvements rule, EPA provided flexibility on this matter:

“Proposed regulations did not specify the format in which the contingency plan must be provided nor did they discuss software applications. EPA strongly encourages LQGs to work with first responders to determine whether electronic submission of contingency plans, including incorporating contingency plan information into existing software applications, is an acceptable approach either in lieu of or in addition to a hard copy submission. However, EPA believes regulations must be sufficiently flexible to allow these decisions to be made on a facility-by-facility basis.” [81 FR 85796]

Additional topics covered

Additional topics are addressed in RO 14943, including the level of detail required for facility maps, street maps, and the overall level of detail required for the QRG. How to identify hazardous wastes with unique or special hazards is also clarified. In general, facilities should work with emergency responders to determine the best way to manage site-specific issues.


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