Texas Hazardous Waste Disposal Rules for Manufacturers

Many, but not all, manufacturing processes result in the creation of waste materials.  These wastes can include simple “plant trash” (paper, plastic and cardboard), to recyclable wastes such as scrap metal, batteries, spent bulbs or in some cases, hazardous wastes such as spent paints, solvents, acids, bases or solids contaminated with hazardous substances.    What many Texas manufacturers don’t understand is that generating these “waste streams” can trigger significant environmental regulatory requirements that manufacturers must follow or face potential fines and penalties from agencies like TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) or EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

In Texas all of these wastes, even plant trash, are considered “industrial wastes” and are therefore regulated to one degree or another.  Texas manufacturers must take stock of the wastes that they generate, and understand how these wastes will impact their businesses and compliance obligations.  This blog post will briefly summarize some of the basic environmental regulations that trigger and apply to manufacturers who generate industrial wastes.

Here are the basic steps that a company should take in order to begin understanding these regulatory obligations.

Waste Determination and Classification

The first step in the process is for a company to conduct what are called “waste determinations” for each waste stream that they generate.  This process requires that companies first identify all of the various waste streams that they generate, and then go about the process of classifying each waste appropriately.  In Texas, Industrial Wastes can be broken down into 3 major categories:  Class 2, Class 1, and Hazardous.  Class 2 is the least harmful, then Class 1 and finally Hazardous (which is the most potentially harmful to human life and the environment).

To give you a better idea of what we’re talking about, Class 2 wastes include things like paper, plastic and cardboard, and are generally sent to the local landfill for disposal.  Class 1 wastes are typically generated by manufacturing processes, but aren’t actually “hazardous” in nature (more on this in a moment).  Class 1 wastes can include things like latex paint, filters, gloves contaminated with non hazardous chemicals, or filter cake.  These wastes are typically disposed of in special “Class 1 Landfills” that are more regulated than standard landfills, have special liners to prevent ground water & other contamination, and require special shipping documents called “waste manifests.” Hazardous wastes are the most regulated of all industrial wastes because they can damage the environment and human health if not managed properly.  Hazardous waste classification is a broad topic, but classification can be boiled down to 3 major categories: Characteristic (flammable, reactive, or corrosive), Listed (EPA has a long list of chemicals and contaminants that can damage the environment.  Examples include heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and many other chemicals) and by Process (by the very nature of certain manufacturing processes, EPA has determined that these wastes are “automatically” hazardous.  One of the most common of these wastes is Filter Cake generated from an electroplating plating processes (F006)).

There’s a sub-category of Hazardous Wastes, called “Universal Wastes.”  These wastes are hazardous by nature, but are not as regulated as “regular” Hazardous Wastes due to their common occurrence in industry.  Examples of Universal Wastes includes batteries, paint related material (TX only), and spent fluorescent bulbs.

The final major category of waste materials are “Recyclables.”  As the name implies, these items can be recycled as opposed to being buried in a landfill or burned in an incinerator.  Examples include scrap metals, cardboard, & certain types of plastics.

“Generator Status”

Once a company completes the waste determination process, the next step is determine its “Generator Status.” Generator status will ultimately determine the level of regulation that a company must manage.  Generator status is determined by the quantity of Hazardous and/or Class 1 waste that the company generates each month.  In general, companies who generate less than 1/2 a 55 gal drum (or 220 lbs) per month of a hazardous waste is considered to be a “Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator” (“CESQ”).  Companies who generate between 220 lbs and 2,200 lbs per month of Hazardous wastes are considered to be a “Small Quantity Generator,” and companies who generate more than 2,200 lbs per month of Hazardous waste are considered to be “Large Quantity Generators.”  As you may have guessed, CESQ results in the least amount of regulation, while LQG status creates the most additional regulation.

Here’s a quick summary of the major regulations that are triggered by each generator status level:

Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator:

  • Must conduct waste determinations
  • Must manifest all industrial waste shipments
  • Must maintain manifest file as records to demonstrate that wastes have been properly transported and disposed of
  • Must select and use DOT approved waste containers for storing and transporting waste streams (i.e.: 55 gal poly and steel drums, etc.)
  • Must properly label and store all waste streams
  • Must select approved and permitted waste transporter(s) and disposal facilities (TSDF)
  • If they ship hazardous wastes, must train their employees per DOT Hazardous Materials shipping requirements.

Small Quantity Generator:

  • Must conduct waste determinations for each waste stream
  • Must manifest all industrial waste shipments
  • Must maintain manifest file as records to demonstrate that wastes have been properly transported and disposed of
  • Must select and use DOT approved waste containers for storing and transporting waste streams (i.e.: 55 gal poly and steel drums, etc.)
  • Must properly label and store all waste streams
  • Must track monthly waste generation quantities for each waste stream
  • Must NOT store or accumulate more than 6,000 kg of waste on site
  • Must ship waste at least every 180 days.
  • Must select approved and permitted waste transporter(s) and disposal facilities (TSDF)
  • If they ship hazardous wastes, must train their employees per DOT Hazardous Materials shipping requirements
  • Must train their employees per initial RCRA (Resource Conservation & Recovery Act) waste regulations and follow up annual refresher training.
  • Must develop and maintain a Waste Reduction plan called a XXX (i.e.: P2 plan)
  • Must complete and maintain a Notice of Registration (i.e: “NOR”) using Texas’ STEERS system.  This is where companies make TCEQ aware that they’re an industrial waste generator and where all waste streams are listed and classified, etc..
  • Must submit an Annual Waste Summary each year.
  • Must have documented Emergency Procedures in place.

Large Quantity Generator:

  • Must conduct waste determinations for each waste stream
  • Must manifest all industrial waste shipments
  • Must maintain manifest file as records to demonstrate that wastes have been properly transported and disposed of
  • Must select and use DOT approved waste containers for storing and transporting waste streams (i.e.: 55 gal poly and steel drums, etc.)
  • Must properly label and store all waste streams
  • Must track monthly waste generation quantities for each waste stream
  • Must select approved and permitted waste transporter(s) and disposal facilities (TSDF)
  • Must ship waste off site at least every 90 days
  • If they ship hazardous wastes, must train their employees per DOT Hazardous Materials shipping requirements
  • Must train their employees per initial RCRA (Resource Conservation & Recovery Act) waste regulations and follow up annual refresher training.
  • Must maintain job descriptions for employees who are required to help manage hazardous waste operations.
  • Must develop and maintain a Waste Reduction or “P2” plan.
  • Must complete and maintain a Notice of Registration (i.e: “NOR”) using Texas’ STEERS system.  This is where companies make TCEQ aware that they’re an industrial waste generator and where all waste streams are listed and classified, etc..
  • Must submit an Annual Waste Summary each year
  • Must develop a written emergency contingency plan.

As you can see, the “higher” the generator status, the more regulations that a company must abide by and manage.  As you might also imagine, the higher the generator status, the more time, money and resources must be allocated in order to meet environmental compliance regulations.

Regardless of generator status, companies should always strive to reduce or eliminate the industrial wastes that they generate, in fact this is mandated by the P2 plan requirement referenced above.  Reduction goals can be accomplished by replacing hazardous process chemicals with non-hazardous substitutes, introducing recycle or reclaim technologies into manufacturing processes, or optimizing manufacturing processes to reduce chemical usage and waste.

Keep in mind that other regulations, such as fire code requirements, could also trigger depending on the location of the facility and local fire code requirements.

It’s also very important to note that regardless of generator status, all companies have “cradle to grave” responsibility for proper management and disposal of their industrial wastes.  This means that the company will be held accountable for any potential transportation or disposal related problems “forever” regardless of fault.  Cradle to grave accountability can trigger, for example, if a truck carrying hazardous waste crashes and spills waste into the environment, or if the chosen disposal facility is later deemed a “Superfund” cleanup site by the EPA.  In either case, the waste generator will be expected to help pay for any potential cleanup and/or remediation related costs.

On a final note, it’s important to note that this blog post is only intended to provide general hazardous waste management information and guidelines.  More specifics about these regulations can be found on TCEQ and EPA’s website or by contacting us for a free initial consultation.

More detailed Hazardous Waste Management regulations in Texas can be found here:

https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assistance/waste/generators-of-hazardous-waste-preparing-for-an-investigation/#generator-status-regulation-chart

 

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