May 13, 2016

EPA Tentatively Denies Petition to Revise RCRA Corrosivity

EPA’s definition of RCRA corrosivity has remained unchanged since its inception in 1980. Primarily, corrosive wastes are aqueous with a pH ≤2 or ≥12.5. [§261.22(a)(1)] On September 8, 2011, the agency was petitioned to revise this definition due to adverse health effects suffered by first responders and others from the dust generated during the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in 2001. The petition requested that the agency lower the upper regulatory value from 12.5 to 11.5 and expand the definition to include nonaqueous wastes.

On April 11, 2016 [81 FR 21295], EPA tentatively denied the petition, giving three primary reasons why it failed to demonstrate that regulatory change was warranted:

  1. The injuries suffered by the WTC first responders and others did not show signs of exposure to a corrosive substance (e.g., burns, dissolved skin proteins). Instead, their symptoms were similar to that of exposure to an irritant.
  2. Very little of the WTC residues (when dissolved in water) actually had a pH above 11.5, the regulatory level proposed by the petition.
  3. The petitioners failed to show how the health-related exposures were due to waste management activities that could have been reduced or controlled through RCRA regulation.

As this is a tentative denial, EPA is requesting public comment on the matter and is seeking data pertinent to the issues raised by the petition. In particular, the agency is interested in information related to the 1) possible health impacts associated with the current corrosivity definition, 2) potential health benefits if the petition were granted, 3) types and amounts of waste that would be newly regulated, and 4) potential costs associated with the proposed regulatory changes. Submit your comments by June 10, 2016 at, identifying docket EPA-HW-RCRA-2016-0040.


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