Hazardous Waste

Another major source of cleanup liability is the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) which establishes standards for the generation, storage, treatment and disposal of Hazardous Wastes. Most states have enacted their own hazardous waste programs and have been authorized by EPA to administer RCRA through their own state programs so that the state has the primary enforcement authority, In such delegated states, EPA will usually only become involved where the state fails to properly administer or enforce the RCRA program.

Parties subject to RCRA requirements include:

  • owners and operators of facilities that first produce hazardous waste (generators) and then send the waste off-site for treatment or disposal;
  • Transporters of hazardous wastes and
  • owners or operators of treatment, storage or disposal facilities (TSDF)

Owners or operators of TSDF are required to perform “closure” on areas where hazardous wastes have been treated, stored or disposed (known as Hazardous Waste Management Units or HWMUs) within 30 days after the HWMU receives its last Hazardous Waste. If wastes are to remain, the owner or operator must take steps to minimize the possibility that Hazardous Waste constituents will escape into the environment from the HWMU or TSDF such as capping or treating the waste. EPA has established general closure standards for all TSDFs and specific closure requirements for certain kinds of  HWMUs

Generators and TSDF may also be required to take corrective action to remediate soil and groundwater that is contaminated with Hazardous Wastes and their constituents. Current owners or operators of TSDFs  may be required to remediated areas where hazardous wastes had been managed or disposed in the past  and may also be required to remediate releases that have migrated beyond the facility boundary.

The RCRA corrective action process is similar to the procedures used in the CERCLA program though the cleanup standards can differ. The first phase of corrective action is a RCRA Facility Assessment (“RFA”) which identifies areas that may require further investigation. If releases are identified in the RFA, the next step is performing a RCRA Facility Investigation (“RFI”). If contamination is detected above RCRA action levels, the owner or operator will then be required to perform a Corrective Measures Study (“CMS”) where remedial alternatives are evaluated. The TSDF may also implement interim measures which are short-term actions to minimize risks

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