Updated February 2022
Owners of businesses in nearly every industry need to stay up to date on EPA regulations and violations to avoid unwanted penalties and fines.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulations in place that affect local, state and federal governments and their respective agencies. In addition, the EPA has regulations for almost every industry imaginable.
With so many regulations it is almost impossible to keep track of them all. The guidance for EPA enforcement comes from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which allows the EPA to monitor all aspects of hazardous waste management.
We put together a quick list of the four most common EPA violations to make sure you handle hazardous waste properly.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act gives “EPA the authority to control hazardous waste from cradle to grave.” This references the generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste.
Most compliance measures of the RCRA are enforced by state and local authorities while the EPA provides oversight.
The EPA website includes some of the major monitoring areas for a variety of industries for a better understanding regarding your specific business.
Below we identified the 4 most common EPA violations regarding the disposal of hazardous waste materials.
4 Most Common EPA Violations
Punishment for EPA violations can be an order for corrective action, fines that can be hefty, and, in extreme cases, jail time. There is no formal EPA violations list, but the following covers violations seen most frequently.
Most violations relate to issues culled from state records.
The EPA doesn’t keep a national list of the most common violations, so state records are generally used as an indicator of typical mistakes made by companies during hazardous waste disposal.
The following are the four most common violations of the RCRA as recorded by several states that most frequently result in fines or greater penalties.
1. Dumping Hazardous Waste Down the Drain
Dumping hazardous waste down the drain or into the local sewer system can result in hefty penalties.
This is an important violation as hazardous waste disposed of down the drain often finds its way into streams, rivers, lakes, or the ocean.
Prohibited items for the drain:
- Controlled Substances
- Radioactive Waste
- Hazardous Chemical Waste
- Sludge, Solids or Viscous Substances
- Corrosive Waste
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Regulated Medical Waste
- Photo Processing Chemicals
- X-ray Processing Chemicals
Polluting waterways and aquifers contaminates drinking water and makes pristine waters unable to sustain life.
2. Improper Waste Labeling
Lack of or improper labeling of hazardous waste. This violation stems from many of those considered waste generators failing to properly label onsite containers or tanks.
Often this is an unintentional error traced to employees who are very busy and overlook the labeling requirements.
To combat this, companies should assign one person who places labels on containers before containers receive any waste. To help this individual perform this task, management should make sure to have adequate labeling supplies on hand.
3. Open Container Violations
Open containers of hazardous waste are another common violation. The EPA mandates that all hazardous waste containers be closed and latched when not in use except when opened to add or remove the hazardous waste.
These are just four of the top 20 violations that have been recorded as most frequent by several states. This list is not exhaustive and businesses that generate waste, especially hazardous waste, should turn to an experienced waste removal vendor to help them formulate an effective waste management program.
4. Failure to Make a Hazardous Waste Determination
A hazardous waste determination is the process of identifying whether or not waste is hazardous. These determinations are not made by local, state or federal governments, but instead “anyone who generates a solid waste must determine if that waste is a hazardous waste.”
If not, they are liable for an EPA violation.
Generators must also keep detailed records of any hazardous waste determinations they make “for at least three years from the date that the waste was last sent to on-site or off-site treatment, storage, or disposal.”
If your business is inspected and you don’t have up-to-date records, you can expect a hefty fine and penalty.
When hazardous waste is routinely generated and stored at your company, regardless of your generator status, it is crucial to work with a partner that is experienced, well-trained, and maintains top safety practices in removing hazardous waste products.