April 14, 2016

Satellite Accumulation Volume Limit Clarified for P-Wastes

EPA has received inquiries regarding the regulatory status of containers that once held P-listed pharmaceuticals (e.g., warfarin, nicotine, physostigmine). Hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and laboratories routinely generate empty containers (e.g., pill bottles, vials, wrappers, paper cups, blister packs) that previously held P-listed medications. Although often times not visually detectable, residues in these empty containers would still be subject to RCRA unless the container has been emptied per the standards of §261.7(b)(3) (usually triple rinsing). Opting to forgo the effort and expense of emptying small containers to this standard, most facilities dispose the containers as non-empty P-listed hazardous waste. Prior to disposal, the waste is accumulated in satellite accumulation areas (SAAs). Since there is a 1-quart volume limit for P-wastes in an SAA, a question arises as to whether the volume of the pill bottles, vials, blister packs, etc. should be included in this limit or just the P-residues themselves.

To address this question, EPA recently issued guidance, RO 14875, affirming a Region 1 interpretation on this matter. The new guidance states that when a facility is accumulating non-RCRA-empty P-listed containers in an SAA, only the residue within the containers is to be included in the 1-quart volume. “[T]he container itself does not need to be included when calculating the maximum accumulation volume of acute hazardous waste in a SAA.” This guidance is consistent with past guidance [RO 14827] addressing the counting of residues in non-empty P-listed containers for determining generator status. States can be more stringent than EPA, so check with your state for site-specific guidance.

 


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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.