Complying with the hazardous waste regulations calls for constant vigilance. It’s possible to meet your obligations by monitoring regulatory changes, attending refresher training, consulting with peers and connecting with state regulators.

Lisa Neuberger 


The more hazardous waste you have, the more federal and state regulations apply to your operations. With the regulations as numerous and complex as they are, it’s easy to overlook a requirement in the ebb and flow of daily work. That said, chances are at least one of the following common waste management scenarios is placing you at risk of a violation.


#1: You are not Identifying All of Your Waste Streams

All businesses are expected to characterize all of their waste streams for proper management and disposal. It’s important to conduct a facility-wide waste survey, including fleet maintenance areas, laboratories, yard and garden care, office areas, maintenance rooms, storage rooms, etc., to identify all wastes. Also, keep in mind that waste that is perfectly legal to throw away at home may not be okay to put in your dumpster at work. Wastes such as aerosol cans, light bulbs, batteries, paint, and cleaners must be characterized and disposed of according to federal and state regulations.


#2: You are not Inspecting Your Central Waste Accumulation Areas at Least Once Per Week

This inspection should involve checking for signs of leaking or deteriorating containers. You must be able to prove to state or federal regulators that you’ve conducted these inspections, so it’s a best practice to create a weekly log or checklist and hang onto it for at least three years.


#3: You are not Allowing Adequate Aisle Space

Inspectors rarely overlook the requirement to maintain adequate aisle space. There must be enough space between containers for employees and emergency responders to move about unhindered. In addition, you must make sure all emergency equipment is accessible and unobstructed in storage areas. Finally, containers of waste may not block exits.


#4: You Have Not Updated Your Contingency Plan

Contingency plans describe the actions your facility will take to respond to fires, explosions or other unplanned releases of hazardous waste. The plans must include the names, addresses and phone numbers (office and home) of employees assigned to coordinate emergency actions. Updated plans must be sent to local emergency responders. You must revise the plan whenever:

  • There are changes to personnel listed in the plan, including phone numbers;
  • The regulations that apply to your plan change;
  • The plan failed in an emergency;
  • You change the facility design or operations in a way that would impact the plan; or
  • The list of emergency equipment changes.


#5: You are Storing Drums of Incompatible Waste Next to Each Other

While most people know that you shouldn’t mix incompatible wastes in the same container, it’s less obvious that entire drums of incompatible wastes should not be stored together. You should physically separate containers holding incompatible wastes from other wastes with dikes, berms, walls or other dividers.


#6: You are Using a Service as Your Emergency Response Phone Number

You’re required to provide an emergency contact number on all hazardous waste manifests. This number must reach someone who understands the hazards of the waste being shipped and can supply spill cleanup and/or mitigation information to emergency responders. This phone number must be monitored at all times. If you do choose to go with an answering service, be sure to choose one that meets regulatory requirements.


#7: You are not Dating the Excess Waste in Your Satellite Accumulation Areas

You may accumulate up to 55 gallons of hazardous waste “at or near the point of generation.” However, once that 55-gallon limit is reached, you must mark the excess waste with that date. You then have three days to move the excess waste to your central accumulation area, and you must mark the date it gets there. This is your new accumulation start date. So in reality you have 93 or 183 days to ship the waste offsite, depending on your generator category.


#8: You are Storing Waste Outside without Protecting it from the Elements

One of the first things an inspector notices is outside storage areas. Be sure that all dumpsters are closed and any piles of debris or other outside storage are completely covered and protected from the elements.


#9: Your Drums Lack Secondary Containment

All permitted storage areas and waste stored in tanks must have secondary containment. Some states even require secondary containment for generators who accumulate 2,200 pounds (approximately five drums) of hazardous waste. In a building, you can consider a floor with an impervious surface (no cracks or drains) and a curb to be the secondary containment. The base must slope away from or otherwise channel leaks away from containers, or the containers must be elevated. Also, the containment must hold at least 10 percent of the total container volume or the total volume of the largest container, whichever is greater.


#10: You Are not Keeping all Containers of Waste Closed

Containers of hazardous waste must be kept closed at all times except when adding or removing waste. Bungholes must be capped and lids secured. A container is “closed” if it can be knocked over without spilling waste. It’s fine to keep a funnel permanently attached to drums; however, the funnel must be secured to the drum and be kept sealed. Containers that are subject to the air rules at Subparts AA, BB and CC must meet more stringent requirements for closed containers.


Complying with the hazardous waste regulations calls for constant vigilance. Even seasoned professionals can find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of management requirements. But it’s possible to meet your obligations by monitoring regulatory changes, attending refresher training, consulting with peers and connecting with state regulators. Then you can write your own list and title it, “Ten things you’re doing right with waste.”


Lisa Neuberger specializes in workplace safety and environmental topics at J. J. Keller & Associates (Neenah, WI). She writes articles for J. J. Keller’s manuals and newsletters with timely environmental news and topics for safety and environmental professionals. Lisa can be reached at [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected].


Copyright 2015 J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.