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03.15.2021 Legal News

Closure Requirements for Large Quantity Generators under the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule

Large quantity generators (LQGs) of hazardous waste who accumulate hazardous waste for no more than 90 days know proper adherence to unit-specific and facility-wide closure requirements is an essential condition for exemption from permitting.  For facilities in states where the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule (HWGIR) has been adopted, closure requirements have changed. These states include South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and 28 others. Changes include more stringent closure requirements for certain types of generators, as well as notification requirements for all LQGs closing individual waste accumulation units or closing the entire facility.

First, EPA identified a loophole in the previous regulations, which allowed LQGs of hazardous waste who accumulated waste in containers only to avoid closure provisions applicable to other generators. A RCRA container is a mobile storage device, whereas a tank is stationary. Previously, if an LQG generated hazardous waste in tanks, drip pads, or containment buildings, they were required to either remove all contaminated soils, groundwater, and equipment (“clean close”) or close the units pursuant to the closure performance standards applicable to landfills. LQGs generating hazardous waste solely in containers did not. 

EPA identified several Superfund sites whose origin could be traced to this loophole. LQGs with no regulatory closure obligations simply abandoned RCRA sites, which eventually experienced releases of remaining wastes, resulting in Superfund liability. To avoid this in the future, the HWGIR places LQGs who accumulate hazardous waste in containers on the same regulatory footing as those who accumulate hazardous waste in tanks, drip pads, and containment buildings.

Next, as evidenced by the RCRA facility to Superfund site issue above, EPA saw closure of waste accumulation units or facility closure as a likely point in time for problems to occur. To encourage proper closure oversight and agency involvement, EPA included various notification requirements in the HWGIR for LQGs closing waste accumulation units or an entire facility. 

Under the HWGIR, if an LQG is closing a waste accumulation unit, it may either 1) place a written note in the operating record, or 2) comply with closure performance standards applicable to facility-wide closure. An LQG temporarily closing or relocating a waste accumulation unit to another location in the facility may want to avoid the cumbersome standards applicable to facility-wide closure. If so, a written note may be placed in the operating record within thirty (30) days after closure of the unit, specifying where in the facility the unit was located. If the unit is later reopened, the LQG must simply remove the note from the operating record. No notification to the State or EPA is required in this instance.

For LQGs closing an entire facility, notification requirements are a bit more complicated. First, the generator must notify the State, at least 30 days prior to the start of closure, of its intent to close the facility. The notification must be made on EPA Form 8700-12 and must indicate the anticipated date of closure. Within ninety (90) days of the date closure is complete, the LQG must again submit Form 8700-12, this time indicating the date of closure and certifying whether the facility met the closure performance standards. 

Although the HWGIR provides a new closure status for certain generators and notification requirements for LQGs, the closure standards themselves remain intact. LQGs must either clean close or close the facility as a landfill. Large Quantity Generators should review the new closure provisions in detail as they look toward any changes in hazardous waste accumulation operations.

Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 85732 (Nov. 28, 2016)