U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Seeks Public Comment on Hazardous Waste Rule

During the last decade, the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Solid Waste has refined the regulations used to identify hazardous waste. On Nov. 19, 1999, the EPA began seeking public comment on the Hazardous Waste Identification Rule (HWIR). This rule would retain the mixture and derived-from rules issued under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which requires all mixtures and residuals of hazardous waste to be within one system.

The mixture rule defines solid waste as hazardous - and therefore subject to regulation - if it is mixed with one or more listed hazardous wastes. The derived-from rule calls for hazardous waste regulations for any solid waste generated from the treatment, storage or disposal of a hazardous waste, including sludges, spill residues, ash, emission control dust and leachate.

The mixture and derived-from rules, according to the EPA's fact sheet, "ensure that hazardous wastes that are mixed with other wastes or treated in some fashion do not escape regulation as long as they are reasonably likely to continue to pose threats to human health and the environment."

The HWIR proposes two revisions to these rules: one is an exemption for wastes listed solely for their ignitability, corrosivity and/or reactivity characteristics, and the other, which the EPA is proposing in a separate notice, involves an exemption for wastes that are both hazardous and radioactive (mixed waste).

In addition, the HWIR discusses two regulatory provisions that could be used to develop self-implementing exemptions, meaning the waste generator would determine whether its waste qualified for exemption rather than submit to governmental review. These provisions are called a "generic" exemption and a "landfill-only" exemption.

Under the generic exemption, listed hazardous waste could be managed as nonhazardous if all chemicals in the waste met risk-based exemption levels and other requirements related to notification, sampling, analysis and recordkeeping.

For the landfill-only exemption, listed waste would be required to meet a different set of exemption levels and be disposed of in a landfill. Similar requirements related to notification, sampling and recordkeeping would apply, as well as an additional requirement to confirm that this waste intended for a landfill actually arrives at its designated disposal facility.

In 1995, the EPA published a similar HWIR and received more than 250 public comments from environmental groups, companies, state governments and others. The agency integrated those comments into the 1999 version, which was written as a stand-alone proposal. Final action on the revisions to the mixture and derived-from rule is required by April 30, 2001.

For copies of the HWIR, fact sheet and related materials, visit http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/id/hwirwste/index.htm or call the RCRA hotline toll-free: (800) 424-9346.

Comments can be sent electronically in ASCII format to [email protected] by referring to the docket number F-1999-WH2P-FFFFF. Written comments should include an original version and two copies, referencing the docket number above. They should be sent to RCRA Information Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste (5305W), 401 M Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20460.

Comments must be postmarked on or before February 17.