August 7, 2012

Burning Hazardous Waste in an Onsite Boiler Without a Permit

For years, we have been telling our customers there are a handful of ways generators can treat their hazardous waste without getting a RCRA permit. In fact, there are eight ways. One federally recognized way is to burn small quantities of hazardous waste in an onsite boiler or industrial furnace (BIF).

Sections 266.102(a)(1) and 266.108 state burning small quantities of hazardous waste in an onsite BIF is exempt from RCRA permitting and all other RCRA requirements. Thus, facilities qualifying for the exemption will not have to comply with the Part 266, Subpart H design and air emission standards for units burning hazardous waste. However, CAA requirements (e.g., potential modifications to the BIF air permit) may still apply. To claim the permit exemption, four primary conditions must be met:

  1. The hazardous waste must be burned at the same facility at which it is generated. Therefore, the exemption does not apply to hazardous waste burned at a facility that receives the waste from offsite, even if the offsite facility is under the same ownership and operational control as the facility at which the waste will be burned. [56 FR 7190]
  2. The following quantity/specification limitations apply to the hazardous waste burned:
    • The maximum hazardous waste burning rate (from 0 to 1,900 gallons/month) is limited based on the terrain-adjusted effective height of the stack associated with the onsite BIF. Units with higher effective stack heights may burn more hazardous per month due to dispersion of potential airborne contaminants.
    • The maximum hazardous waste burning rate at any time is limited to 1% of the total fuel input to the BIF. This is calculated based on the heating value (Btu) input or mass input, whichever results in the lower mass firing rate.
    • The heating value of the hazardous waste must be at least 5,000 Btu/lb as generated.
    • The hazardous waste cannot include any of the dioxin listed wastes (F020, F021, F022, F023, F026, or F027).
  3. Facilities accumulating unmixed hazardous waste fuel are responsible for complying with all applicable RCRA standards. This includes §262.34 requirements for large and small quantity generators accumulating the hazardous waste in 90/180-day units before mixing it with other fuels (typically virgin fuel oil). After such mixing, however, accumulation units would be exempt from the RCRA standards. Thus, at facilities that are eligible for the small quantity burner exemption, tanks that are used to store the mixed fuel would be exempt from RCRA regulation. [§266.101(c)(2), 56 FR 7192]
  4. A one-time notification must be sent to EPA noting that the facility is operating as a small quantity burner of hazardous waste and is in compliance with all §266.108 requirements. Additionally, records must be kept at the facility documenting compliance with the hazardous waste firing rate and heating value limits.


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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.