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November 09, 2015
Don’t get penalized for common hazwaste container violations
By Elizabeth M Dickinson, JD, Senior Legal Editor - EHS

The most common Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulatory violations cited by state environmental regulatory agency inspectors are in connection with containers of hazardous waste. So, what are the most common mistakes in managing containers, and how can you avoid them and the civil penalties that might result? Here’s a handful of frequent violations and what you can do to head them off before they occur.

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Are you in compliance when it comes to container management? Check our our recently updated Hazardous Waste Container Management Guide Book!

Failure to keep containers closed

This is perhaps the number one container violation. Inspectors frequently observe hazardous waste drums that have been left open during the entire work shift or drums with open funnels.

Tip: A closed container means the bung is screwed in or the snap ring is snapped. A funnel that screws into the bung and seals with a spring-loaded hinge is usually accepted as a closed container. Remember, an open funnel is an open container. Consider choosing a closure device that allows employees to easily remove or add waste and encourages them to close the container when they’ve finished adding or removing waste.

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Not marking the accumulation start date on the container   

Generators accumulating hazardous waste on-site without a permit must be sure to clearly mark the date each period of accumulation begins on each container.

Tip: During your weekly inspection, check the container to make sure the dates are on the drum and that it will be shipped on time.

Failure to document inspections

Generators and treatment, storage, and disposal facility owners and operators are required to inspect, at least weekly, areas where containers are stored. Facilities often cannot produce documentation that such inspections have occurred. Inspectors may ask to review up to 3 years of inspection records.

Tip: Hang your inspection log on a clipboard in the storage area. When it isfull, file it in your permanent records.

Containers missing the words “Hazardous Waste” or other required information

Some states also require additional information on the container, such as the hazardous waste number or chemical name that identifies the container’s contents.

Tip: Be sure you know what, if any, additional information your state requires on containers of hazardous waste, and follow through by marking all containers appropriately.

Using improper containers or those in poor condition

Containers must be in good condition and must be lined with material that will not react with the hazardous waste being stored therein. To be in “good condition,” the container cannot be rusted, have structural defects, or leak.

Tip: During your weekly inspection, check the condition of the container itself as well as the surrounding area for leaks. To avoid container damage:

  • Don't stack drums and containers too high; avoid putting higher loads on containers than they are designed to withstand to prevent the stack from tipping over.
  • Use pallets and skids under large drums and containers to lift and move them without stressing them.

In order to determine the compatibility of waste with your container, ask your transporter and disposal facility for their recommendations based on the intended disposal method for the waste, or perhaps ask a barrel manufacturer or reconditioner.

Failure to comply with the satellite accumulation area rules

Generators accumulating hazardous waste on-site without a permit in accordance with the accumulation time rules may accumulate up to 55 gallons of hazardous waste or 1 quart of acutely hazardous waste in their satellite accumulation area provided specific requirements are met. Violations include failure to list the date the satellite container reaches its accumulation limit and failure to remove the waste from the satellite accumulation area within 3 days of exceeding the quantity limitations.

Tip: Remember that the accumulation start date for satellite accumulation is the date the container is filled. You have 3 days from this date to move the container to your permanent storage area and 90 to 180 days from this second date (depending on your generator size) to move the waste off-site.

These violations can result in civil and/or criminal penalties, and a history of noncompliance can affect the severity of any future penalties. Remember that many inspectors go first to the hazardous waste accumulation or storage area when they conduct an inspection.


Hazardous Waste Container Management - Guide Book

This guide explains the federal hazardous waste container management rules applicable to both TSDFs storing hazwaste in containers and generators accumulating hazwaste on-site in containers. It also addresses how to determine if a container is empty, the applicability of the air emissions control standards, and satellite accumulation by generators. In addition to explaining the federal standards, the guide addresses the standards of all 50 states.

BLR's Guide to Hazardous Waste Container Management includes:

  • Analysis of the regulatory requirements for managing containers on the federal level and in all 50 states
  • Compliance tips
  • Tools including inspection checklists and applicability charts
  • Common questions and answers
  • A model employee container management training lesson plan and quiz
  • A practical, affordable resource to significantly prevent facing civil fines
  • Full text of the hazardous waste regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations
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