In early June 2021, EPA became aware that some commercial hazardous waste incinerators were informing their customers (hazardous waste generators) that they would no longer accept containerized hazardous waste designated for incineration, due to a backlog at their facilities. This presents a problem for hazardous waste generators because they are only allowed to accumulate hazardous waste on-site for a maximum of 90 days for large quantity generators (LQGs) or 180 days (or 270 days if the waste must be transported a distance of 200 miles or more) for small quantity generators (SQGs). (1) Because many commercial incinerators are currently not accepting containerized hazardous waste that must be incinerated to meet the land disposal restriction treatment standards, some hazardous waste generators are finding it difficult to locate any permitted TSDFs to which they may send their hazardous waste within the regulatory time frames.
Upon learning of the incinerator backlog, EPA took action to understand the scope and duration of the problem, determine the root causes, and investigate any potential regulatory solutions. As of late July, EPA heard from over 20 states that they received requests from hazardous waste generators for extensions to the accumulation time limit, and some states have begun receiving requests for second extensions.
In EPA discussions with representatives from the commercial incinerator industry, they cited a number of contributing factors for the backlog including labor shortages affecting both transportation and the incinerators due to the COVID-19 pandemic; winter storms that caused shutdowns in the southern United States; shutdowns for both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance; and increased manufacturing (and resulting increase in waste generation) as the
economy recovers from the pandemic. They also indicated that this backlog at incinerators may not fully resolve until the end of the first quarter of 2022.
Given these highly unusual and unique circumstances, the widespread and continued accumulation time limit extension requests states have received from hazardous waste generators, and reports from commercial incinerators anticipating a lengthy timeframe to return to normal operations, we are providing this description of the multiple existing options that are available under RCRA regulations. These options will: 1) help address the burden on hazardous waste generators that have nowhere to send this hazardous waste; 2) provide temporary solutions
for RCRA permitted TSDFs, including commercial incinerators, to assist generators with storing the excess waste while the incinerators catch up; and 3) ensure that all hazardous waste in storage is managed in a manner that maintains the protection of human health and the environment. Implementing agencies are critical to ensuring that the options below will be implemented in a manner that maintains sufficient protectiveness.
Further, given the urgency of this situation, EPA encourages regions and states to emphasize to the regulated community that it will be essential that they provide complete information to implementing agencies when requesting to use the regulatory options described below that require approval, so that implementing agencies can act expeditiously to prioritize and evaluate these requests.
To read more about the detailed regulatory options and the complete memorandum issued by the EPA, please click here.
As always, please reach out to your Ingenium representative if you have questions or need clarification on this and all other regulatory matters.