Save Millions By Avoiding These 10 Common Hazardous Waste Violations

In 2018, Home Depot Inc agreed to pay over $27.8 million to settle charges of illegal hazardous waste disposal in California.

Home Depot outlets were dumping hazardous waste like aerosol cans, waste batteries, and paints at local landfills that should not have received them in the first place.

Large corporations are not the only ones on the radar. Agencies such as the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) are known for showing up at sites for inspection without providing any warning or preparation time. If found guilty, the fines levied can spell financial doom for small and medium-sized companies.

While the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) was enacted back in 1976, the laws related to special waste and hazardous waste have become more stringent. Both state and federal agencies have become more active in pursuing and fining violators, the Home Depot case being just one prominent example.
Here is a list of 10 common hazardous waste violations and how you can save your company potentially millions of dollars in fines and penalties.

What are Some Common Hazardous Waste Violations?

  1. Improper Labeling of Hazardous Waste

It’s quite common for hazardous waste generators to fail while labeling containers correctly, or to label containers at all.

Solution: To comply with the rules, the labels you use must have the following details –

  • The name and address of the facility
  • Accumulation start date
  • The identity or source of the waste
  • What material or element makes the waste hazardous (such as acids)
  • The hazardous characteristic of waste (e.g., toxic, corrosive, or reactive)
  • The physical state of the waste (e.g., liquid or solid)
  1. Failure to Perform Hazardous Waste Determinations

It is required of waste generators to determine if the waste generated is hazardous by either testing or by the knowledge of the waste stream. Check if –

Hazardous waste generators must identify hazardous and special waste. Many breaches occur when the generators fail to do so and overlook waste such as spent paint filter, sandblasting residue, electronic equipment, or absorbents.

Solution: The waste generator has the responsibility of determining whether the waste generated is hazardous according to RCRA norms and the HWID (Hazardous Waste identification process) is central to identifying hazardous waste being generated by your business.

  1. Improper Disposal of Hazardous Waste

When companies try to get rid of hazardous waste by dumping it into sewer systems or at landfills which are not permitted to receive them, they damage the environment and consequently attract heavy fines from the regulatory authorities.

Solution: To reduce the risk of regulatory fines, your businesses should know and incorporate the following in their processes:

  • Contract with a reputable and properly licensed hazardous waste disposal company which can provide proper documentation along with proof of disposal.
  • It’s important to note that the RCRA has a “cradle to grave” requirement. Ensure that your employees are trained in proper hazardous waste disposal procedures to avoid illegal dumping of waste.
  • Keep in mind your waste generator requirements and maintain proper licensing
  1. Inadequate or No Hazardous Waste Manifests

A uniform hazardous waste manifest must accompany its hazardous waste that is shipped off-site to track hazardous waste streams properly. Failure in this documentation can lead to huge fines. It is important to send copies of these manifests regularly by mail to the regulatory and federal agencies such as the EPA and the DOT.

Solution: Implement the use of a uniform hazardous waste manifest, which is a shipping document that accompanies the hazardous waste from the point of generation to the final TSDF (Treatment storage and disposal facility). The commonly occurring violations in this document include missing signatures and EPA ID numbers. It’s important to make sure that this document is completed and double checked.

  1. Lack of a Contingency Plan

Hazardous waste generators are required to have a written hazardous waste contingency plan which is a program designed to minimize the harmful effects on humans and the environment from fires, explosions or any accidental hazardous waste release. Lack of having an adequate contingency plan is a common regulatory offense that can invite significant fines.

Solution: Preparing an adequate plan relies upon your company’s waste generator status.

Contingency plan requirement for small quantity generators (SQGs)

  • Appoint an emergency coordinator and post contact information
  • Post the location of emergency equipment and emergency phone numbers
  • Ensure that the employees are familiar with emergency procedures

Contingency plan requirement for large quantity generators (LQGs)

  • Create a written plan on site and make sure that it’s updated and reviewed frequently
  • Appoint an emergency coordinator and post contact information
  • Post the location of emergency equipment and emergency phone numbers
  • Prepare an emergency evacuation plan
  1. Improper Management of Expired Hazardous Waste

Many manufacturing companies like laboratories, pharmaceutical manufacturers, educational and medical research facilities end up dumping expired hazardous waste as they lack inventory management. These companies are potentially in danger for not disposing of expired stock in a way that adheres to guidelines.

Solution: Assign a team to conduct regular audits and keep track of expired chemicals to dispose of them properly. Avoid buying chemical stock in bulk ahead of time and adopt a centralized buying system that keeps track of the inventory and project needs simultaneously.

  1. Inadequate or No Training for Employees in Hazardous Waste Management

Hazardous waste management involves a lot of risks. Safety is paramount for your employees. Lack of training in knowledge about potential hazards or proper storage procedures can potentially create a lethal set of conditions.

Solution: It’s necessary to maintain compliance with hazardous waste management training requirements by providing employees with on-the-job training as well as be available to answer any safety-related questions while working. Other methods of training can be formal classroom training or electronic and written training.
A site-specific written plan followed by a job specific training is mandated for large quantity generators. For small quantity generators, it’s required for all employees to be thorough with proper waste handling procedures and emergency procedures relevant to their role.

  1. Improper Management of Mercury

Mercury waste includes all the industrial waste that contains mercury and discarded products that contain mercury. Mercury spills are extremely toxic and are very expensive to clean up; they also attract heavy fines from the EPA.

Solution: It is important that companies inspect their solid waste streams for products that potentially contain mercury such as lighting products, automotive related products, and medical instrumentation. These waste streams must be treated and disposed of as hazardous waste.

  1. Infrequent Inspection of Hazardous Waste Storage Area

It is required that hazardous waste generators perform a weekly inspection of all hazardous waste storage tanks. Lack of weekly inspections is a common violation and tends to attract heavy fines.

Solution: Maintain an inspection log to record all weekly inspections. According to the EPA guidance, the weekly inspection should contain some of the following checkpoints:

  • The area is free from debris and other material
  • The container/tank tops are free from spillage
  • The containers/tanks are properly closed and in good condition, i.e., free of dents and corrosion
  • The tanks/containers are compatible with their contents

It is also important to ensure that information on labels can be read and understood easily and that waste is being disposed of within the allotted accumulation time.

  1. Open Drums and Tanks

Another common source of fines and violation is open drums containing hazardous waste. Leaving drums open may expose them to exposure and potential accidents. The hazards include detonations, fires, and explosions.

Solution: Employees must close and latch funnels, screw in bungs, use drum rings and tighten bolts. The only time the drum must be opened is while adding and removing waste.

To help avoid hazardous waste violations, it’s crucial for businesses to store hazardous waste in containment solutions or storage tanks. Such tanks should be neatly labeled and transported to facilities designed to take care of different types of waste. You also may want to consider partnering with liquid storage solution providers with expertise in hazardous waste management across industries.

Ironclad Environmental Solutions provides storage solutions like frac tanks, roll-off boxes, poly tanks, stainless steel tanker trailers, and containment berms. We work with businesses in industries like oil and gas and environmental remediation, to power plants and shipyards, and work with quick turnaround times, should your business face an urgent storage need.

Contact us for more information or request a quote for a specific liquid storage solution today.