Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Hazardous Waste & PCB Enforcement
RCRA Inspections & Enforcement
Related Web Sites
Report Improper Management of Hazardous Waste (Complaints)
The RCRA Enforcement Office encourages individuals to notify us in the event they witness, or know of, any hazardous waste disposal or other hazardous waste mismanagement occurring within the Region 9 states. Contact John Schofield (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On this page:
- RCRA Inspection FAQ
- Frequently Observed Violations
- Example RCRA Inspection Reports
- Examples Recent Administrative Orders
- Administrative Orders with Supplemental Environmental Projects
RCRA Inspection & Enforcement FAQ
Click a question to open/close its answer.
- What is the RCRA Enforcement Office?
- The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates the generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal of solid and hazardous waste. The Region’s RCRA Enforcement Office (REO) is responsible for conducting various compliance monitoring and enforcement activities concerning the hazardous waste regulations. The RCRA Enforcement Office also enforces any authorized state regulations.
The goal of the RCRA Enforcement Office is to protect the public and the environmentfrom risks posed by violations of RCRA by ensuring a high level of compliance within the regulated community. Non-compliance is discouraged through the use of formal enforcement actions and penalty assessments.
- Who gets inspected?
- The regulated community consists of individuals or industries that either generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste.
- What is a comprehensive evaluation inspection (CEI)?
- Comprehensive Evaluation Inspections (CEIs) are routine inspections of hazardous waste generators, transporters, and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs). CEIs are used to: 1) evaluate compliance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the hazardous waste regulations; 2) support enforcement actions; 3) identify and bring non-notifiers into the RCRA regulatory program; and, 4) determine a facility’s acceptability for disposal of Superfund waste. Compliance with authorized state regulations that are at least as stringent as the RCRA standards is also evaluated.
- What Is a Typical Inspection Like?
- Typically, an inspector will review facility records and/or files prior to the site visit. During the onsite visit, the inspector will conduct an in-briefing, during which he/she will ask for information on a facility’s processes, types of hazardous waste, and waste management practices. Then, the inspector will conduct a walk-though of the facility concentrating on waste generation, treatment, storage and/or disposal areas. After the walk-through, facility records (i.e., training records, contingency plans, manifests, etc.) are reviewed. Finally, the inspector will summarize the facility’s compliance with the applicable requirements of RCRA during an out-briefing. After the inspection, the inspector returns to the office and writes an inspection report. After conferring with management, the appropriate next steps are determined.
- How long does an inspection take?
- Inspecting a facility that generates only a small amount of waste and is substantially in compliance may take only a couple of hours. Inspections of larger facilities or facilities significantly out of compliance may take the better part of a day. Inspections of large, complex facilities may take more than one day.
- Why are particular facilities selected for inspection?
- Each year, US EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance provides guidance to EPA’s regional offices that communicates the national priorities and core program requirements. The regional office then develops an annual plan for the number and types of inspections to conduct for the year. Usually, the regional office agrees to support national priorities, regional priorities, and Core Program elements. The plan is memorialized in a Memorandum of Agreement that serves as an operating plan for the region. Generally, the region plans to inspect facilities that are within specific geographical areas and/or facilities in specific industrial sectors.
- What kind of notice do we give when we inspect a facility?
- EPA policy is to conduct unannounced inspections.
- What is EPA’s inspection authority?
- RCRA Subtitle C Section §3007 gives EPA the authority to conduct compliance and evaluation inspections of hazardous waste facilities for the purpose of developing regulations, preparing permits, or ensuring compliance with RCRA regulations. Access to facilities is granted to “duly designated” employees, and allows authorized officials to have access to and copy all records at hazardous waste management facilities at all reasonable times, obtain samples of any wastes, and determine compliance with all applicable requirements of RCRA.
- What if inspectors want confidential business information (CBI)?
- EPA is permitted to authorize a Federal employee for access to RCRA confidential business information when such access is necessary to perform work in connection with the employee’s official duties. Inspectors will endeavor to not include confidential business information (including photos) in inspection reports. Before reports are made available to the public, facilities are given the opportunity to make a confidentiality claim. If the claim meets certain standards, the information will be kept confidential. EPA is required to protect from public disclosure confidential business information obtained under RCRA. The RCRA Confidential Business Information Security Manual details the procedures for handling, using, and safeguarding CBI, including storage of materials in secure areas or containers.
- Why Do EPA and the State and Locals (sometimes) all conduct inspections?
- Compliance activity is the cornerstone of our efforts to protect both our environment and our health. While EPA engages in direct compliance activities, the bulk of this effort is undertaken by state and local agencies. One of EPA’s most critical responsibilities is to oversee these state efforts. Our oversight of state programs is dependent on more than the formal state program review process. We also incorporate experiences/information from all our (EPA) activities. For example, analysis of independent EPA inspections and enforcement provide a critical benchmark with which to compare state activities. Although EPA authorizes states to implement a hazardous waste program in lieu of the federal regulations, EPA retains the authority to conduct independent inspections under sections §3008, 7003, and 3013 of RCRA.
- Does EPA inspect for compliance with state hazardous waste laws?
- Yes. Under Section §3006 of RCRA, EPA may authorize qualified states to administer and enforce the RCRA program for hazardous waste within the State. States with final authorization (all states in Region 9) administer their hazardous waste programs in lieu of EPA’s federal program. RCRA §3008(a)(2) allows EPA to enforce any provision of an authorized state’s approved program, including state requirements that are more stringent than the federal requirements. State provisions that are broader in scope, however, are not part of the federally approved RCRA program, and are therefore not enforceable by EPA.
- What happens when we find violations?
- Congress has authorized EPA to assess civil penalties, order compliance, and/or direct clean-ups. The RCRA Enforcement Office uses formal and informal mechanisms to address violations and ensure that a facility’s hazardous waste management practices are protective of human health and the environment. When evidence of non-compliance is obtained during an inspection, the REO will initiate an enforcement action. Enforcement actions range from an informal warning letter requiring compliance, to more formal activities. Formal enforcements may include actions such as an administrative order or civil action requiring compliance and payment of a penalty, a permit denial or modification, or a criminal investigation or action. The appropriate response to violations is determined by the Enforcement Response Policy . Per the policy, there are three criteria for taking formal action: 1) actual exposure or a substantial likelihood of exposure to hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents; 2) chronic or recalcitrant violators; or 3) substantial deviation from the terms of a permit, order, agreement, or from RCRA statutory or regulatory requirements.
- If there is a fine, how is it calculated?
- Section §3008(a) of RCRA allows EPA to issue an order which may contain a penalty of up to $37,500 per day for each day of noncompliance for each violation. The actual amount of the penalty is calculated using the RCRA Penalty Policy. In brief, each violation is analyzed for: 1) its potential for harm to the environment, human health or the RCRA program; and, 2) for the extent of deviation from the regulations. The violations are categorized as major, moderate, or minor, and a penalty amount is assessed based on the category into which the violation falls. In addition, a multi-day component, as appropriate, and the amount of economic benefit obtained through non-compliance may be added to the penalty calculation.
- What is a SEP?
- One component of a formal enforcement action may be the requirement for a Supplemental Environmental Project, known as a SEP. This may require the facility to add a process, incorporate recycling, install additional treatment of waste, or some other remediation project. For more information on SEPs, see EPA’s SEP Home Page.
- Do people go to jail for violations?
- Criminal action is reserved for the most serious violations. In cases where the violation is willful, intentional, and/or reckless - or the person makes a false statement to the Federal government - Federal law provides for severe criminal sanctions, including imprisonment.
Frequently Observed Violations
Pictures of Common Violations
Example RCRA Inspection Reports
- RCRA Compliance Evaluation Inspection, Clean Harbors Buttonwillow, LLC. (PDF) (70 pp, 1.03 MB)
- RCRA Compliance Evaluation Inspection, Siemens Water Technologies Corporation (PDF) (8 pp, 136K)
- RCRA Compliance Evaluation Inspect, UCSF Mission Bay (PDF) (20 pp, 519K)
Examples Recent Administrative Orders
- US Ecology (PDF) (26 pp, 1.4MB)
- ZKW Trading Corp. (PDF) (8 pp, 42K)
- Kop Coat Inc. (PDF) (16 pp, 616K)
- Fender Musical Instruments Corporation (PDF) (21 pp, 755K)
Administrative Orders with Supplemental Environmental Projects
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