Regulatory Library


RCRA regulates the handling, storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA also covers solid, non-hazardous waste, and underground storage tanks.  RCRA may be implemented either by EPA or by state agencies. In addition, various states have passed supplemental, more stringent requirements.

There are four main regulatory issues to plan for under RCRA:

  1. Hazardous waste generation and management
  2. Hazardous waste transportation
  3. Hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal
  4. Underground storage tank management

In October 2008, EPA finalized revisions to the Definition of Solid Waste to exclude certain hazardous secondary materials from regulation under Subtitle C of RCRA.  The prupose of this rule is to encourage safe, environmentally sound recycling and resource conservation and to respond to several court decisions concerning the definition of solid waste.  In response to a January 2009 petition from the Sierra Club to reconsider the rule, the agency is considering reopening parts of it and is soliciting comments from interested stakeholders on the subject.

1.  Hazardous waste generation

Law: RCRA Subtitle C, Section 3001-3002
Regulations: 40 CFR 261-262

What is hazardous waste? First, it is waste – i.e. some "discarded material". Second, it is waste that is not covered by the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act; that is, not air or water emissions. Third, it is waste that either 1) exhibits certain hazardous characteristics (e.g., is corrosive), or 2) is listed by EPA.

Under RCRA, facilities must determine if they generate hazardous waste, through waste testing or other means. If so, the facility must obtain an EPA identification number, and follow a series of recordkeeping, handling, and management requirements.  Details on these requirements are provided in the RCRA Details tour stop (Tour #4a).  In brief, the requirements include:

  • Determining hazardous waste type and amount
  • Obtaining an EPA Identification number
  • Preparing and managing the hazardous waste
  • Follow storage limitations
  • Performing recordkeeping and reporting, particularly with the manifest
  • Conducting an LDR assessment and notification

2.  Hazardous waste transportation

Law: RCRA Subtitle C, Section 3003; HMTA, 42 USC 1801-1812
Regulation: 40 CFR 263; 49 CFR 171-179

In some instances, you may need to transport hazardous waste on your site; for example, you may need to consolidate hazardous waste prior to shipment. If your plant makes internal shipments which stay entirely on the facility site, then the activity can occur without triggering the RCRA hazardous waste transportation requirements. However, if your facility transports hazardous waste off-site (e.g., over a public road), you will be subject to the requirements for RCRA hazardous waste transportation, including certain manifesting and recordkeeping requirements. In all cases, you must follow DOT regulations governing the transport of hazardous materials.

3.  Hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal

Law: RCRA Subtitle C, Section 3005
Regulation: 40 CFR 270

If you choose to perform hazardous waste treatment, storage, and/or disposal, you will have to obtain a TSD permit from EPA and meet stringent operating standards. Note, however, that short-term storage does not require a permit. (See RCRA Details tour stop for more specifics here).

You should note that - based on the definition of hazardous waste - many recycling and reclamation activities involving hazardous waste are considered to be "treatment", depending on the particular recycling activities involved and the materials being recycled. The regulations covering recycling and reclamation of hazardous waste are quite complex and not necessarily intuitive. Thus it is important for you to insure that any time your facility is processing secondary materials you are not unknowingly engaging in hazardous waste treatment.

As part of the TSD permit, there are general requirements that apply to all permitted TSDs, and specific requirements based on the type of activity you will engage in. Any release of contamination from a TSD will be governed by the RCRA Corrective Action program, which is modeled after the CERCLA cleanup program.

Many provisions of the October 2008 Revisions to the Definition of Solid Waste Rule amend this regulation.

4. Underground storage tank (UST) management

Law: RCRA Subtitle I
Regulation: 40 CFR 280; additional state level regulations

The UST Program is administered in large part by state and local agencies.  An UST is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground.

The UST program focuses on prevention of leaks (through requirements such as spill, overfill, and corrosion protection and regular leak detection monitoring and reporting), as well as on proper response should leaks occur. UST requirements are briefly presented in a plain language booklet by EPA, Musts For USTs at [].  Many facets of proper UST management can be found at EPA's web site on USTs [].

Federal UST requirements apply to USTs storing petroleum or certain   substances designated as "hazardous" in Section 101(14) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act  (CERCLA). The UST regulations apply to the same hazardous substances identified by CERCLA, except for those listed as hazardous wastes. These hazardous wastes are already regulated under Subtitle C of RCRA (see bullet #3 above) and are not covered by the UST regulations.  Information on the CERCLA hazardous substances is available from EPA through the RCRA/CERCLA Hotline at 800 424-9346.

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