September 14, 2021

Extending Hazardous Waste Storage Time and Capacity Limits

In June 2021, EPA became aware of hazardous waste incinerators experiencing a reduced capacity to treat hazardous waste. Labor shortages, power outages, shutdowns, and increased manufacturing and waste generation have resulted in certain RCRA-permitted treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) no longer accepting waste from generators. The resulting backlog means generators are at risk of exceeding their accumulation time limits. Likewise, commercial incinerators are up against their own permitted storage limits. On August 10, 2021, the agency published RO 14939, addressing these concerns and discussing existing regulatory options for extending storage limits.

Accumulation time extensions for generators

Two regulatory options exist for generators to obtain an extension on their hazardous waste accumulation time limit. First, large and small quantity generators (LQGs and SQGs) may submit a request for an accumulation time limit extension (§§262.17(b) and 262.16(d), respectively). The agency, or authorized state, may grant a 30-day extension to address this unforeseen circumstance on a case-by-case basis. The extension may also include changes to waste management practices to ensure the protection of human health and the environment. These may include increased inspections, temporary secondary containment, and informing local emergency response committees. While federal regulations do not limit the number of extensions, each request must meet the criteria in the regulations.

The second option for extending an accumulation time limit applies only to SQGs. Under §262.16(c), SQGs may accumulate hazardous waste for up to 270 days if they need to transport that waste 200 miles or more for off-site treatment, storage, or disposal. This provision is self-implementing and does not necessitate more-stringent waste management practices.

Regulatory options for TSDFs

A TSDF, having reached its RCRA-permitted storage capacity, can pursue a permit modification or temporary authorization to increase such capacity. Section 270.42 provides, amongst other things, details on Class 2 and Class 3 permit modifications. These modifications would allow for increased container storage capacity and a change in authorized waste management practices. However, they also require agency approval and an opportunity for public comment.

An alternative to a permit modification is a temporary authorization. Temporary authorizations, granted by the agency under §270.42(e), allow a permittee to conduct certain activities that would otherwise require a Class 2 or Class 3 permit modification. The temporary authorization request must demonstrate the waste storage and management activities are compliant with Part 264 standards and meet the qualifying criteria of §270.42(e). Authorizations are limited to 180 days with an allowance for one additional 180-day term provided the permittee has requested a Class 2 or Class 3 permit modification.

Emergency permits

A final regulatory option, available to both generators and TSDFs, may be an emergency permit. [§270.61] An emergency permit can be issued if the agency finds there is an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the environment due to some waste management activity. While these permits can address hazardous waste storage, EPA does not typically expect storage of excess containerized wastes to result in imminent danger. That said, the agency does acknowledge there could be situations where an emergency permit may be appropriate, and such situations should be evaluated on a site-specific basis.

 


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Considerable care has been exercised in preparing this document; however, McCoy and Associates, Inc. makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee in connection with the publication of this information. McCoy and Associates, Inc. expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use or for the violation of any federal, state, or municipal law or regulation with which this information may conflict. McCoy and Associates, Inc. does not undertake any duty to ensure the continued accuracy of this information.

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.