EPA Looks to Make Life Under RCRA Easier For Educational Institutions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to publish a Final Rule creating an optional, alternative set of generator requirements for hazardous waste generated or accumulated in laboratories at “eligible academic entities”: (1) colleges and universities; (2) non-profit research institutes owned or affiliated with a college or university; or (3) teaching hospitals owned or affiliated with a college or university. 

The Rule will append a new subpart, Subpart K, to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste generator regulatory requirements of 40 CFR 262. Eligible academic entities may choose to have their laboratories subject to Subpart K in lieu of existing generator requirements. Notable provisions of Subpart K, include the following:

(1) Rather than requiring a hazardous waste determination at the time of generation, Subpart K allows eligible academic entities to make hazardous waste determinations when the waste is removed from the laboratory or within four days of arriving at an on-site central accumulation area (CAA) or on-site interim status or permitted treated, storage, or disposal facility (TSDF).

(2) Eligible academic entities will need to create Laboratory Management Plans (LMPs), a portion of which will be enforceable by EPA, describing how the entity will label containers and manage “unwanted materials” prior to hazardous waste determinations.

(3) Once every twelve (12) months, each laboratory will have thirty (30) days to clean-out any hazardous waste that consists of unused or commercial chemical products and will not have to count such waste towards the entity’s generator status. 

Eligible entities that have developed successful programs consistent with the existing generator regulations may choose not to become subject to the increased burden of Subpart K. I believe, however, that the Rule will be a welcome option for entities that have had a difficult time managing large numbers of laboratories (and students) generating small amounts of hazardous wastes that vary in type by semester.   

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