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December 15, 2014
Top RCRA Violations
By Elizabeth M Dickinson, JD, Senior Legal Editor - EHS

Common Violations

The types of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) violations discovered through inspections of hazardous waste facilities by state environmental protection agencies are much the same from state to state. Although the number per type of violation will vary within a state from year to year, usually the same types of violations are found in some order within a state’s annual “top 10 list.”

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A recent presentation by a representative from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection listed the following violations as the most common ones in Connecticut, with the top 5 accounting for 122 of the 180 citations given in 2014:

  1. Hazardous waste determinations
  2. Emergency preparedness
  3. Inspections
  4. Used oil
  5. Universal waste
  6. Personnel training
  7. Container management
  8. Tank management
  9. Manifest/land disposal restrictions
  10. Marking/dating

Violation Pitfalls

Hazardous waste determination. Although it’s useful to know what types of lapses in regulatory compliance commonly occur, it’s also helpful to know the common mistakes or pitfalls that lead to a particular violation.

Examples of the pitfalls involved in a hazardous waste determination are:

  • Commonly missed wastestreams (i.e., those that can be overlooked when identifying hazardous waste): absorbents, rags/wipers, waste gasoline, spent antifreeze, grinding dusts and blasting media, filters, paint-related wastes, old/overstock unused products, wastewaters treated in evaporators, partially empty aerosol cans, items in trash Dumpsters such as fluorescent lamps and paint cans, abandoned materials
  • Incomplete hazardous waste determinations
  • Failure to document “generator knowledge”

Inspections. Violation of inspection requirements can be found in the inspection schedule, inspection log, and the inspection itself. In the schedule, pitfalls include:

  • Failure to have a schedule
  • Inspections not scheduled according to the regulations applicable to the waste management unit (e.g., containers must be inspected weekly, tanks: daily)
  • Certain required items not addressed (e.g., storage areas, loading and unloading areas, safety and emergency equipment)

Problems with the inspection log can include no inspection log at all, time gaps in the log, and required information not included (e.g., first and last name of the inspector, date and time of inspection).

And finally, the inspections themselves can include these pitfalls: The inspections are not performed at all, and certain items such as tank or container storage areas and secondary containment have not been inspected.

Strategies for ensuring compliance

The CT DEEP representative recommended the following strategies for ensuring compliance:

  • Follow up promptly on problems you discover during your facility inspections.
  • Periodically review the facility’s hazardous waste compliance program and update (perhaps annually).
  • Meet with the staff frequently to keep them up to date, and remind them of their responsibilities.
  • Create a “tickler” list—a handout that can be customized to the processes at your facility.
  • Make periodic clean sweeps through the facility to find and dispose of (in accordance with regulatory requirements) any old chemicals and “contraband” materials (e.g., a favorite solvent brought in by a worker but not known to be at the facility).
  • Perform self-audits.
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