Frequent Questions About Implementing the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Final Rule
EPA updated the hazardous waste generator regulations in a final rule published in the Federal Register on November 28, 2016. Below is a collection of the most frequent questions EPA received during implementation of the rule and during trainings about the updated regulations.
On this page:
- Waste Determination
- Determining the Quantity of Hazardous Waste
- Marking and Labeling
- Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) to Large Quantity Generator (LQG) Consolidation Under the Control of the Same Person
- Episodic Generation
- Satellite Accumulation Areas
- Emergency Preparedness and Prevention
- What is the federal effective date of the Generator Improvements Rule and when is it effective in the states?
The Generator Improvements Rule became effective on May 30, 2017, federally and in those states and U.S. Territories not authorized for the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) program (i.e., Iowa, Alaska, tribal lands and most of the territories). In the remainder of the States who are authorized for the RCRA program, the rule will not be effective in a state until the state adopts the rule and adds it to their regulations. (Note that EPA would need to authorize these additional regulations as part of the state’s authorized program in order for EPA to enforce these regulations in that state. However, states can still enforce these additional regulations upon adoption as a matter of state law, even prior to EPA authorization.)
States must adopt more stringent aspects of the federal rule but can choose whether to adopt aspects of the rule that are less stringent or equally stringent. For those revisions that are more stringent, states are required to adopt the rule by July 1, 2018, or July 1, 2019, if the state regulatory process includes a legislative step.
- Where is the rule currently in effect?
The rule was automatically in effect in Iowa, Alaska, on tribal lands and in most of the Territories of the United States on the effective date of the final rule.
- Which provisions in the rule are more stringent, less stringent and equally stringent?
States must adopt, as part of their generator regulations, all provisions in the final generator rule that are more stringent than the existing provisions. These provisions are the following:
- Re-notification every four years by small quantity generators.
- Incompatible wastes must not be placed in the same containers at a satellite accumulation area.
- Satellite accumulation areas are subject to emergency preparedness and prevention requirements.
- Labels on waste containers, tanks, and containment buildings must identify the hazards of wastes being accumulated.
- RCRA waste codes (e.g., F006, D001) must be marked on the waste container prior to shipment off-site.
- A generator must submit notification to EPA or the authorized state when preparing to close its facility and when that closure has been completed.
- If a large quantity generator (LQG) that has accumulated hazardous waste in containers cannot meet standards to clean close its facility at the end of its life, it must close as a landfill.
- If a generator is an LQG any month of the year, it must complete the Biennial Report for all the waste generated in that year, not just the waste generated in the months it was an LQG.
- Recyclers that do not store prior to recycling must complete and submit the Biennial Report.
- LQGs must prepare Quick Reference Guides for their contingency plans and submit them to local responders.
Note, there may be instances where states have existing regulations or policies that are less stringent than the new provisions and thus, may need to be revised to be as stringent as the federal program.
The provisions in the final generator rule that are less stringent than the previous regulations do not have to be adopted by states because state regulations can be more stringent than the federal regulations. These provisions are the following:
- Streamlined provisions to allow generators that experience an event outside of normal production to ship that waste off site with a manifest to a RCRA-designated facility without a change to their normal generator category (referred to as Episodic Generation).
- Allowing LQGs to accept waste from very small quantity generators under the control of the same person for consolidation at the LQG. The consolidated waste then must be shipped from the large quantity generator to a RCRA-designated facility under a hazardous waste manifest, referred to as very small quantity generator (VSQG) to LQG Consolidation.
- Allowing LQGs that cannot meet the requirement to store ignitable or reactive waste 15 meters from the property line to get a waiver from the local fire authorities if appropriate.
The remaining revisions in the final rule are clarifications, the reorganization of the regulations, and explanations of the existing rules. Thus, authorized states may, but are not required to, adopt these changes. EPA encourages states to adopt these program improvements.
- What changed in the Generator Rule for making hazardous waste determinations?
EPA made the following six changes to the requirements that a generator make a hazardous waste determination found in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) section 262.11:
- Specified that the solid and hazardous waste determination be accurate and expanded on why the hazardous waste determination is important; i.e., to ensure the proper management of the waste within the RCRA framework;
- Required the hazardous waste determination for each solid waste be made at the point of waste generation, before any dilution, mixing, or other alteration of the waste occurs, and at any time in the course of its management that it has, or may have, changed its properties as a result of exposure to the environment or other factors, such that its waste classification may have changed;
- Incorporated regulatory language that elaborates on how to make a hazardous waste determination for listed and characteristic hazardous waste;
- Referenced the applicable RCRA regulations for identifying possible exclusions or exemptions for the hazardous waste in 40 CFR section 262.11(e);
- Moved the independent recordkeeping and retention requirements for hazardous waste determinations currently found at 40 CFR section 262.40(c) into section 262.11(f), with clarifications on what records must be kept; and
- Required small quantity generators and LQGs to identify the applicable RCRA waste codes for the hazardous waste they have generated, but clarified that the containers only need to be marked with this information before shipping hazardous waste off site to a RCRA permitted treatment, storage, and disposal facility in accordance with the requirements of 40 CFR section 262.32. Note, generators can apply the waste codes to containers prior to that time if they choose to, but it’s not required before that time.
- What can be considered "generator knowledge" when making a hazardous waste determination?
To make an accurate determination that the waste is a listed hazardous waste, acceptable knowledge that can be used includes waste origin, composition, the process producing the waste, feedstock and other reliable and relevant information.
To make an accurate determination that the waste is a characteristic hazardous waste, the generator must apply knowledge of the hazard characteristic of the waste in light of the materials or the processes used to generate the waste. Acceptable knowledge includes:
- process knowledge (e.g., information about chemical feedstocks and other inputs to the production process);
- knowledge of products, by-products, and intermediates produced by the manufacturing process;
- chemical or physical characterization of wastes;
- information on the chemical and physical properties of the chemicals used or produced by the process or otherwise contained in the waste;
- testing that illustrates the properties of the waste;
- or other reliable and relevant information about the properties of the waste or its constituents.
A test other than a test method set forth in subpart C of 40 CFR part 261 (or an equivalent test method approved by the Administrator under 40 CFR section 260.21) may be used as part of a person's knowledge to determine whether a solid waste exhibits a characteristic of hazardous waste. However, such tests do not, by themselves, provide definitive results.
When available knowledge is inadequate to make an accurate determination, the person must test the waste according to the applicable methods set forth in subpart C of 40 CFR part 261 (or according to an equivalent method approved by the Administrator under 40 CFR section 260.21). If the generator uses a specified test method, the results of the regulatory test, when properly performed, are considered definitive for making the hazardous waste determination.
- How should a generator manage hazardous waste if awaiting test results to make a determination?
Any generator managing a potentially hazardous waste should manage it in accordance with the generator regulations until such time that the generator is sure that the waste is not hazardous.
- Did EPA make substantive changes to the generator categories and the requirements for determining the quantity of hazardous waste?
In the final generator rule, EPA promulgated new and updated definitions for very small quantity generator (formerly conditionally exempt small quantity generator), small quantity generator, and large quantity generator. However, EPA did not change the monthly generation quantity limits for each category of hazardous waste generator from the previous regulations.
Likewise, generators have always been required to determine their monthly generator category based on the amount of hazardous waste they generate in that calendar month. The new standards in 40 CFR in section 262.13 provide more information about how to determine the amount of hazardous waste when making a monthly category determination. EPA has also included in the regulation additional discussion of requirements for very small quantity generators mixing hazardous waste and solid waste and moved it into 40 CFR section 262.13(f)(1) from section 261.5. The new section 262.13(f)(2) also includes a reference to the requirements for small and large quantity generators that mix solid and hazardous waste.
- Does exceeding the accumulation limit of 1,000 kilogram (kg) of hazardous waste for very small quantity generators or 6,000 kg of hazardous waste for small quantity generators change a generator's category?
For very small quantity and small quantity generators, the RCRA regulations differentiate between the amount of hazardous waste a generator generates per month and the total amount of hazardous waste accumulated on site. A generator's category (very small quantity generator, small quantity generator, or large quantity generator) is defined by how much hazardous waste is generated in that month. As described below, the accumulation limits in the regulations work slightly differently for very small quantity generators and small quantity generators. Large quantity generators have no accumulation limit.
If a very small quantity generator exceeds the accumulation limit of 1,000 kg of non-acute hazardous waste or 1 kg of acute hazardous waste, the hazardous waste itself must be managed under more stringent standards, but the very small quantity generator’s category does not change. The more stringent standards that apply to waste once the accumulation limit is exceeded are basically small quantity generator standards for exceeding the accumulation limit of 1,000 kg of non-acute hazardous waste and large quantity generator standards for exceeding the accumulation limit of 1 kg of acute hazardous waste.
For small quantity generators, the 6,000 kg accumulation limit is a condition of the generator’s exemption from permitting requirements. Because a small quantity generator can only generate up to 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per month, if the SQG has accumulated more than 6,000 kg of hazardous waste on-site (and does not have an extension for accumulation beyond the 180 days—approximately 6 months—that are allowed), this is an indication that the generator either was generating more than 1,000 kg for one or more months or has accumulated the hazardous waste for more than 180 days. In this situation, the small quantity generator can choose to become a large quantity generator and manage the hazardous waste as a large quantity generator. Alternatively, the small quantity generator will lose its exemption from regulation as a storage facility and be subject to the requirements in 40 CFR parts 264 through 267, part 270, and the notification requirements at section 3010 of RCRA.
- Does hazardous waste that is generated and accumulated at a satellite accumulation area count toward a generator's category for that month?
Yes. All hazardous waste should be counted and applied toward the calendar month in which it is generated. This includes all hazardous waste that is generated and accumulated at satellite accumulation areas.
- What new requirements are there for marking and labeling of hazardous waste containers, tanks, and containment buildings?
The final rule added a provision that generators must mark hazardous waste with an indication of the hazards of the contents. This requirement applies from the point of generation at a satellite accumulation area and includes generator central accumulation areas, transfer facilities that consolidate hazardous waste from different generators, and generator accumulation areas at RCRA treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. EPA is allowing flexibility in how a generator indicates the hazards.
Examples of how to indicate the hazards include (but are not limited to):
- The words of the applicable hazardous waste characteristic(s) (i.e., ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic);
- Hazard communication consistent with the Department of Transportation requirements at 49 CFR part 172 subpart E (labeling) or subpart F (placarding);
- A hazard statement or pictogram consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazard Communication Standard at 29 CFR section 1910.1200; or
- A chemical hazard label consistent with the National Fire Protection Association code 704. Exit
- When do waste codes need to be applied to the container?
The RCRA waste codes must be placed on the containers before shipping hazardous waste off site to a RCRA permitted treatment, storage and disposal facility but do not need to be applied before that time. An electronic system, such as a bar code system, is acceptable as long as the RCRA waste code(s) are tied to the specific container.
- Do you have to manifest when shipping hazardous waste from a very small quantity generator to a large quantity generator under the consolidation provision?
No. The very small quantity generator does not have to use the hazardous waste uniform manifest and is not required to use a hazardous waste transporter when shipping waste to a large quantity generator to be consolidated. Any applicable Department of Transportation requirements would continue to apply.
- How does a very small quantity generator have to mark containers of hazardous waste when sending it to be consolidated at a large quantity generator?
The containers must be marked with the words "Hazardous Waste," and an indication of the hazards of the contents of the containers (as explained above under Marking and Labeling).
- Is there a time limit for accumulation of hazardous waste at a very small quantity generator before consolidating at a large quantity generator?
No. There is no time limit for accumulating hazardous waste at a very small quantity generator that will be sending their waste to the large quantity generator for consolidation. The very small quantity generator must stay under the overall accumulation limit in the regulations, however (i.e., 1,000 kg non-acute hazardous waste and 1 kg acute hazardous waste).
- When does the 90-day limit for accumulation of waste at a large quantity generator start for consolidated waste?
The 90-day clock starts when the very small quantity generator’s waste arrives at the large quantity generator for consolidation. The large quantity generator would add that date to the label as the accumulation start date and have 90 days to get the consolidated waste off-site.
- Can very small quantity generator waste be treated or consolidated with similar hazardous waste once it reaches a large quantity generator where it is being consolidated?
Yes. Very small quantity generator waste can be treated or consolidated with other waste at the large quantity generator as long as the wastes are compatible and the large quantity generator complies with the conditions for exemption in 40 CFR section 262.17 for all the hazardous waste. If very small quantity generator waste is mixed or consolidated with the large quantity generator waste that had been generated before the very small quantity generator waste arrived at the large quantity generator, the earlier date would need to be used in determining the accumulation start date.
- Can a very small quantity generator consolidate at a large quantity generator when the large quantity generator is in another state?
Yes. A very small quantity generator can consolidate at a large quantity generator in another state as long as both states have adopted the consolidation provision and the very small quantity generator and the large quantity generator are under the control of the same person. Under the control of the same person means the entity has the power to direct the policies of the generator.
- What is an “episodic event”?
An episodic event, as defined in 40 CFR section 262.231 of the generator regulations, is an activity that does not normally occur during a generator’s operations and that causes that generator to exceed the threshold for its normal generator category for that month. Both very small quantity generators and small quantity generators can experience episodic events. Episodic events can be planned or unplanned. A clean out of a tank or of a laboratory, a short-term maintenance project, or a removal of excess inventory would be considered planned episodic events. There can also be unplanned events such as a spill caused by a storm, damaged equipment, or a product recall. An episodic event cannot last more than 60 days beginning on the first day episodic hazardous waste is generated and concluding on the day the hazardous waste is removed from the generator’s site. Increased production of hazardous waste due to an increased rate of production is not an episodic event.
- How many episodic events can a very small quantity generator or small quantity generator conduct in one year?
A generator can conduct one planned or unplanned episodic event in a calendar year and can submit a petition for a second event if necessary in the same calendar year. If the first event is planned, then any second event would have to be unplanned. If the first event is unplanned, any second event would have to be planned.
- What happens if you have an unplanned episodic event and you don’t initially know if your waste is hazardous?
When an unplanned episodic event occurs, the generator may not know immediately if the waste generated is hazardous or non-hazardous. If enough waste has been generated that the generator would be bumped into a higher generator category (small or large quantity generator) if it is hazardous, the generator must notify EPA or the authorized state within 72 hours. EPA recommends the generator use EPA Form 8700-12 (Site ID Form) to notify that an episodic event has occurred and begin managing the waste under the episodic generation provisions.
Very small quantity generators must manage the waste in a manner that minimizes the possibility of a fire, explosion, or release and small quantity generators must manage the waste under the container and tank standards in 40 CFR section 262.16. All generators must label the waste with the words “Episodic Hazardous Waste,” with a word, placard or pictogram that identifies what the hazards are that the waste poses, and with the start date of the episodic event.
If the waste turns out not to be hazardous, the generator can work with EPA or the authorized state to cancel the unnecessary episodic event so it does not count toward their limit for the year. The recommendation to manage the waste in a conservative manner under the assumption that it might turn out to be hazardous waste is consistent with EPA’s guidance for the generation of any new waste that has not gone through a hazardous waste determination yet.
- If holding a second episodic event that is unplanned, when must the generator submit the petition for that event?
If a generator holds a second event that is unplanned, it must notify EPA or the implementing state within 72 hours of the start of the event by phone, email, or fax and subsequently submit a petition with all the relevant information for the event. The generator may manage hazardous waste for an unplanned second event under the episodic generation standards while awaiting approval from EPA or the implementing state.
- When does the 60-day limit for an episodic event start?
The 60-day limit for a planned episodic event starts on the first day of any activities affiliated with the event. For an unplanned episodic event, the event begins on the first day the hazardous waste is generated, regardless of whether the generator has completed analysis confirming that the waste is hazardous.
- By when does the hazardous waste have to be transported off-site?
The very small quantity generator or the small quantity generator has 60 days from the start of the event to complete it and ship all the hazardous waste off site to a RCRA-designated facility for treatment, storage, or disposal. If the hazardous waste is not off site within 60 days, then it must be counted toward the generator's monthly generation levels.
- Do very small quantity generators and small quantity generators holding episodic events have to ship hazardous waste using a Hazardous Waste Manifest?
Yes. All generators holding episodic events must ship the waste to a RCRA-designated treatment, storage, or disposal facility using a Hazardous Waste Manifest and a hazardous waste transporter.
- Do very small quantity generators and small quantity generators holding episodic events have to complete the Biennial Report?
No. A very small quantity generator or a small quantity generator who generates more than their normal category amount as part of an episodic event does not become a large quantity generator and does not need to complete a Biennial Report.
- When is a generator allowed to have open containers at a satellite accumulation area?
Under limited circumstances, a generator is allowed to have open containers in a satellite accumulation area. Generators have always been allowed to have a container open when adding, removing, or consolidating waste. EPA is now allowing for the satellite accumulation area container to be open when temporary venting of a container is necessary:
- for the proper operation of equipment, or
- to prevent dangerous situations, such as build-up of extreme pressure.
EPA stresses it does not intend to create a loophole to the closed container requirement or to allow intentional evaporation of hazardous waste. Rather, temporarily allowing for an open container is intended to apply in the limited cases where “strict adherence to the 'container closure' requirements could substantially increase a risk of a hazardous waste incident rather than decrease it.”
- What are a generator’s requirements for “making arrangements” with local emergency responders?
Both small quantity generators and large quantity generators have long been required to make arrangements with local emergency responders that are appropriate for the type of waste being handled by the generator. These arrangements include familiarizing local responders with the layout of the facility, the properties of the hazardous waste on site at the facility, where personnel are likely to be working at the facility and possible evacuation routes. Generators have always had to document if they were unable to make these arrangements with state or local authorities. These requirements were found in the previous regulations in 40 CFR section 262.34 (and containing a reference to section 265.37 in part 265 subpart C) for both small and large quantity generators.
The final Generator Improvements Rule has copied this requirement into 40 CFR part 262 at section 262.16(b)(8)(vi) for small quantity generators and section 262.256 for large quantity generators. The new regulations also added a requirement that the generator must keep documentation of the fact that it has made arrangements with local emergency responders, adding to the existing requirement that the generator document if it cannot make the arrangements.
- Do satellite accumulation areas have to be included in a contingency plan? Does the point of generation need to be included also?
Yes, to both. Emergency preparedness and prevention provisions under RCRA apply to areas where hazardous waste is generated and accumulated. This includes satellite accumulation areas and central accumulation areas, which both have to be covered by the contingency plan. By definition, the satellite accumulation areas need to be "at or near" the point of generation per 40 CFR section 262.15(a), and therefore, points of generation are also covered by the contingency plan.
- When do large quantity generators have to complete a Quick Reference Guide as part of their contingency plan?
There is a staggered rollout for the new requirement for large quantity generators to submit a Quick Reference Guide as part of their contingency plans:
- New large quantity generators must submit the quick reference guide when they submit their contingency plan to local emergency responders.
- A large quantity generator in operation when the regulations went into effect on May 30, 2017, must submit a Quick Reference Guide at the time they next submit a revised contingency plan to local responders due to other necessary revisions (40 CFR section 262.262(b)).
- What elements have to be included in a large quantity generator’s Quick Reference Guide?
The Quick Reference Guide includes eight elements that are critical to local responders when an emergency is occurring at a facility:
- The types and names of the hazardous wastes on site and their hazard in layman’s terms (e.g., toxic paint wastes, spent ignitable solvents);
- An estimated maximum amount of each hazardous waste on site at any one time;
- The identification of any hazardous waste that would require unique or special treatment by medical staff in the event of exposure;
- A map of the facility identifying where hazardous waste may be located;
- A street map of the facility in relation to surrounding businesses, residences, and schools;
- The location of the water supply;
- Information about any on-site notification systems to communicate with people at the facility; and
- The name of an emergency coordinator available at any time.
EPA recommends that large quantity generators discuss the appropriate contents of the Quick Reference Guide when making arrangements with local emergency responders to coordinate on whether any additional information would be useful to those responders in the case of an emergency.
- What does a large quantity generator have to do when closing a central accumulation area (90-day accumulation area), but not the entire facility?
A large quantity generator may choose one of the following two options to ensure that upon closure this accumulation area will be identified as a former accumulation area for hazardous waste:
- Place a notice in the operating record within 30 days after closing the waste accumulation unit that identifies the unit’s location within the facility. Applicable closure performance standards can then be addressed later when the entire facility closes. If necessary, the notice can be removed from the operating record at any point before closing the facility if the waste accumulation unit is put back into service. This is the option we expect most large quantity generators will choose to employ; or
- Notify the regional EPA Administrator no later than 90 days after closing the unit. The large quantity generator should have met the closure performance standards in 40 CFR section 262.17(a)(8)(iii) on or before the date they submit the 90-day notification. If a large quantity generator needs longer than 90 days to comply with the closure performance standards, they must submit an extension request to the Administrator no later than 75 days after closure.
- If a generator’s central accumulation area has no hazardous waste in it currently, does that mean it is “closed”?
No. If there is no hazardous waste currently in a central accumulation area, that does not mean that it closed for the purposes of putting a notice in the operating record or notifying the state or EPA. A closed central accumulation area is an area from which the generator has removed all hazardous waste and that it does not intend to use again as a central accumulation area in the future.
- Does the requirement for a large quantity generator to notify about the closure of a container storage area apply to satellite accumulation areas?
No. A large quantity generator does not need to notify EPA or its authorized state when closing a satellite accumulation area. This is noted in the rule preamble at volume 81 of the Federal Register (FR) on page 85771.
- If a generator was a large quantity generator for all or most of its existence except the last few months prior to closure, does it have to comply with the closure requirements?
EPA recommends that a generator that has had fluctuating generator categories work with its state to determine whether it must comply with the closure requirements. Technically, if a generator has ever been a large quantity generator during its lifetime, the closure provisions apply. However, EPA or the state will make a case-by-case determination based on the facts of the situation. For example, a facility that was a large quantity generator for 20 years and then dropped down to a small quantity generator for six months before closing, would most likely be subject to the closure requirements. Conversely, a facility that was a small quantity generator for twenty years but was a large quantity generator for the last six months before closure, may not have to undergo closure.
- When does the provision for re-notification by small quantity generators go into effect?
Small quantity generators will be required to re-notify starting in 2021 and every four years thereafter using EPA Form 8700-12. This re-notification must be submitted by September 1st of each year in which re-notifications are required.
- Will re-notification requirements change if the state already requires annual or biennial re-notification by small quantity generators?
If the state already collects this information from small quantity generators annually or biennially, as long as the more frequently state-collected data is transferred into the national RCRA information management system or RCRAInfo by the state on the timetable EPA finalized in the Generator Improvements final rule, these existing state regulations would meet the requirement. If the generator's state requires more frequent re-notification, the small quantity generator should comply with the state's deadlines.
Last updated on February 21, 2018