Best Practices for Handling Hazardous Waste on Construction Sites

With everything else happening on a construction site, the last thing you need is an EPA inspector finding broken hazardous waste regulations. Depending on the project, demolitions and renovations often interact with various hazardous materials (some to the environment, some to your employees).

This guide to handling hazardous waste on construction sites helps you identify some of the most commonly found wastes, their EPA guidelines, and how to handle them on-site best.

HWH Environmental provides on-time disposal services for hazardous waste disposal that help you manage your waste from cradle to grave.

Identifying Hazardous Materials on Construction Sites

Construction sites often contain a wide variety of wastes, some hazardous and some not. However, during clean-up, it’s essential to understand that hazardous waste requires special attention to avoid heavy penalties.

On-site hazardous materials often include asbestos, lead, chemicals like solvents and adhesives, and certain types of paint and batteries. Understanding and recognizing these allows you to prevent your team from harmful exposures and local government fines.

Commonly-Found Hazardous Waste at Construction Sites

Asbestos

Contaminated Soil

Soil contaminants include:

  • Petroleum hydrocarbons
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Solvents.

Chemicals and Solvents

  • Adhesives
  • Sealants
  • Paints
  • Thinners
  • Cleaning Supplies

Lead-Based Paint

Electrical Waste and Batteries

  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • Electrical switchgear
  • Batteries, whether from vehicles, tools, or electronics, contain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury, which are hazardous

Building Materials

  • Treated woods, for example, may contain chemicals like creosote or arsenic. 
  • Older fluorescent light fixtures may contain mercury. 

EPA Guidelines for Hazardous Waste

The main regulatory framework for the EPA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Established in 1976, these guidelines provide detailed information on handling and disposal of hazardous waste.

A comprehensive system labeled ” cradle-to-grave management” requires waste generators to manage their waste throughout its lifecycle.

On a construction site, different materials and types of hazardous waste require specific procedures for handling and disposal.

Asbestos

Asbestos is “designated as a hazardous substance with a reportable quantity in the Superfund regulations.” Because of this, there are a variety of regulations construction and demolition sites must adhere to.

These guidelines include “requiring the owner of the building or the operator to notify the appropriate state agency before any demolition, or before any renovations of buildings that could contain a certain threshold amount of asbestos or asbestos-containing material.”

Certified hazardous waste disposal services must handle the removal to prevent airborne contamination and to follow specific disposal protocols.

Lead

The EPA clarifies that “contractors can manage residential lead-based paint (LBP) waste as household waste. The EPA enforces the Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) R for construction companies handling lead-based paint. If you work in homes with lead-based paint, the EPA requires a series of pre-renovation education requirements, including training, firm certification, and work practice requirements.

Contaminated Soil

When dealing with contaminated soil, the EPA’s regulations under RCRA and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, come into play. 

These rules require that any handling, treatment, or disposal of contaminated soil must minimize the release of contaminants into the environment and comply with all applicable treatment standards.

Chemicals and Solvents

Chemical waste and solvent disposal depends on the specific products and the correlated EPA regulations. The RCRA and EPA require proper storage, labeling, and disposal.

If you have any questions, please contact our expert hazardous waste disposal team, who can provide you with insights and information regarding your construction site waste.

The Importance of EPA Compliance

Compliance with EPA regulations isn’t just about protecting the environment, but it’s essential for avoiding significant fines and penalties.

As a construction company owner, maintaining accurate records of hazardous waste handling helps avoid problems down the line. Working alongside a hazardous waste disposal company allows you to rest assured that your waste will be disposed of correctly and according to all regulations.

Key Principles for Safe Management of Construction Waste

There are four key principles for the safe management of construction waste.

1. Identification and Labeling

When handling hazardous waste on a construction site, ensure your team understands the importance of safe handling and labeling.

Every hazardous waste container needs clear, durable labels that specify the contents and warn of hazards. Different labels might be necessary depending on the type of hazardous waste.

2. Keep Wastes Separate

When combined with other substances, some hazardous wastes cause chemical reactions. These reactions include fire, explosions, and toxic releases that harm both individuals and the environment.

Separate containers and possibly even different storage areas might be necessary, depending on what you’re working with.

3. Safe Storage Practices

Containers used for hazardous waste must be:

  • Suitable for the waste type, e.g., corrosion-resistant containers for acidic or alkaline wastes.
  • Kept closed except when adding or removing waste.
  • Maintained in good condition, without leaks or deterioration.
  • Stored in secondary containment systems to catch spills or leaks.
  • Storage areas should be well-ventilated, secure from unauthorized access, and equipped with appropriate spill response materials.

4. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Depending on the hazardous waste being handled, personal protective equipment is necessary. These may include gloves, face shields, masks, and other protective items to prevent exposure to harmful hazardous waste.

Dispose of Hazardous Construction Waste with HWH Environmental

Every construction project has unique needs, so HWH Environmental provides hazardous waste disposal solutions that fit your needs.

Whether your project involves large-scale demolition or renovation with specific waste challenges, contact HWH Environmental for a customized construction waste disposal plan.

Author: Mark Chocola

With over 25 years of experience in the hazardous waste disposal industry, Mark Chocola is one of the driving forces behind HWH Environmental that are committed to providing safe, compliant, and cost-effective hazardous waste solutions. His deep industry knowledge and dedication to customer service have made HWH Environmental a trusted partner for businesses across the United States.