September 17, 2019

CCR Proposal to Address Five Problem Elements

To address stakeholder input and court remands on the 2015 coal combustion residuals (CCR) final rule, EPA is proposing a series of changes open for public comment until October 2, 2019. [84 FR 40353] Comments may be submitted under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OLEM-2018-0524.

Revising the Beneficial Use Criteria

Based on review of available information, including state-specific beneficial use programs, EPA is considering a revision to the environmental demonstration trigger when CCR undergoe an unencapsulated land use. The agency proposes to remove the current mass-based threshold of 12,400 tons, and replace it with six location-based criteria. Unencapsulated beneficial use of CCR would trigger an environmental assessment when it involves placement on the land in the following areas:

Also under consideration is whether a combination of the mass-based and location-based criteria should be used, or whether to require an environmental analysis for all unencapsulated uses regardless of mass or location.

CCR Piles

The definition of a CCR pile closely mirrors the RCRA definition of "disposal," as well as the RCRA definition of a "waste pile," which is a land disposal unit. Thus, CCR piles constitute disposal and are subject to all regulatory criteria applicable to CCR landfills. In contrast, activities meeting the definition of beneficial use are not considered disposal, even if they involve direct placement on land. EPA believes a single regulatory approach could more consistently address potential environmental and human health issues.

Accordingly, the agency is proposing establishing a single set of requirements applicable to all temporary placement of unencapsulated CCR on the land whether destined for beneficial use or disposal. A definition would be added for a “CCR storage pile,” which is a temporary pile that would be exempt from disposal requirements. All other piles would be regulated as disposal units.

Revising Groundwater Monitoring and Corrective Action Report Requirements

Data presented in previously submitted reports has been inconsistently formatted, often making it unclear to the public or EPA what is being communicated. To improve report data communication, EPA is considering two possible revisions:

  1. A proposed provision would establish a minimum set of requirements to be addressed in the report summary section. The summary would be at the beginning of the annual report and would a) require stating whether the CCR unit was operating pursuant to the correct monitoring program, b) identify the applicable constituents present in groundwater, c) state when the monitoring took place, and d) indicate whether any corrective measures were initiated or completed.
  2. EPA requested comment on an amendment that would require analytical results and related information to be presented in a standardized format and be included in the annual report.

Alternative Risk-Based Groundwater Protection Standard for Boron

If boron is added to the list of constituents in Appendix IV of Part 257 as proposed (March 15, 2018; 83 FR 11588), EPA is proposing to adopt an alternative risk-based groundwater protection standard since boron does not have a maximum contaminant level (MCL) under the SDWA. EPA is proposing to use the same methodology for establishing a boron standard that was used for four other Appendix IV constituents without MCLs in a final rule on July 30, 2018. [83 FR 36435] The methodology employs a combination of Superfund risk assessment guidance, child-specific exposure factors, the 2014 human health evaluation manual, and toxicity values established in OSWER Directive 9285.7-53.

CCR Website Requirements

Current regulations require owner/operators of any CCR unit to establish and maintain a publicly accessible website, titled “CCR Rule Compliance Data and Information.” The website is supposed to detail location restrictions, design and operating criteria, groundwater monitoring, corrective action, and closure/post-closure care.

Due to multiple cases where these websites require user registration, user approval processes, or email addresses to gain access, EPA finds these methods of public access insufficient. The agency is proposing to amend the regulations to clearly specify that facilities must ensure all required information to be on the websites, available for printing and downloading, and without any requirement for user approval or personal information to access the website.


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This document addresses issues of a general nature related to the federal RCRA regulations. Persons evaluating specific circumstances dealing with the RCRA regulations should review state and local laws and regulations, which may be more stringent than federal requirements. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any site-specific circumstances.