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September 02, 2014
RCRA Inspections - Are You Ready?
By Elizabeth M Dickinson, JD, Senior Legal Editor - EHS

Authority to inspect

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Section 3007, authorizes a representative of the U.S. EPA or a RCRA-authorized state to enter any premises where hazardous waste is handled to inspect the facility, examine records, and take samples of the wastes. The Department of Transportation may participate where hazardous waste transporters are involved. 

All hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) must be inspected at least once every 2 years. Facilities may also be inspected at any time if the EPA or the state has reason to suspect that a violation has occurred, and may be chosen also for an inspection when specific information is needed to support the development of RCRA regulations and to track program progress and accomplishments. Inspections may be conducted by the EPA, an authorized state, or both, with one having overall responsibility for conducting the inspection. The inspection may include a formal visit to the facility, a review of records, taking of samples, and observation of operations.

Types of inspections

There are many types of inspections. The compliance evaluation inspection (CEI) is the primary mechanism for detecting and verifying RCRA violations by hazardous waste generators, transporters, and TSDFs. Other types of inspections differ based on the purpose, facility status, and the probable use of inspection results.

Inspection procedures

Upon entry to the facility, the inspector generally holds an opening conference with the owner or operator to discuss the nature of the inspection and to describe the information and samples to be gathered.

Following the opening conference, the actual inspection takes place, which may involve:

  • Reviewing facility operations and waste management practices,
  • Reviewing records,
  • Conducting a visual inspection, and
  • Identifying sampling requirements.

Finally, the inspector holds a closing conference to allow the owner or operator to respond to questions about the inspection and to provide additional information. The inspector usually summarizes what he or she has observed.

After the visit is completed, the inspector prepares a comprehensive report that summarizes the records reviewed, any sampling results, and the facility’s compliance status with respect to RCRA.

The most important result of any inspection is the determination of whether the facility is in compliance with the applicable regulations. The inspector may also determine compliance through examination of the reports that facilities are required to submit, or are part of normal waste handler operations. Inspection reports may contain information about the wastes being handled, the method of handling, and the ultimate disposal of wastes. Reports are submitted as required in a permit or enforcement order (e.g., corrective action schedules of compliance) and by regulation (e.g., biennial report). If the facility is not complying with all of the appropriate state or federal requirements, an enforcement action may be taken.

EPA guidance documents that you may find helpful in preparing for an inspection include:

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