Waste Management as a Result Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2727 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues

Waste Management as a result of the RCRA


Waste management and the landfill industry in general have emerged in the past few decades as an area of concern for citizens, government officials and policy makers alike. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was designed to govern the handling and disposal of "hazardous wastes" at sites that were then currently active. The RCRA affects sites where such wastes were treated, stored or disposed of since November 19, 1980. Thus, any person that generates "hazardous waste" is governed, as are persons that treat, store or dispose of hazardous wastes. This paper will discuss the changes in the waste management and landfill industry as a result of the RCRA, the reconfiguration of the solid waste industry after the EPA banned local small dumps, and includes policy analysis and recommendations for the future in this area.

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Under the RCRA, waste is not considered "hazardous waste" unless it is a "solid waste," which includes solids, liquids and containerized gasses. Solid waste must be "discarded material," which includes recycled material or anything inherently waste-like (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).Major exclusions from the definition of solid waste are sewered discharges, domestic sewage, in-situ mining materials, source special nuclear materials, and reused spent sulfuric acid. The exclusions of solid waste under the RCRA, which have been the source of serious litigation, consist of material that has been directly reused within an industrial process, despite being leftover from another or the same part of the process (Lee, at 35-39). Also excluded from the solid waste definition are certain sludges and by-products that only possess a characteristic of hazardous waste, as opposed to containing a listed waste (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).

Term Paper on Waste Management as a Result of the Assignment

In to be a "hazardous waste" the solid waste must be capable of causing an increase in mortality or serious illness or present a real or potential threat to human health or the environment if improperly managed. The exclusions under the RCRA include exclusions for: household waste, agricultural waste used as fertilizer, mining overburden at a mine site, utility coal combustion wastes, oil and gas drilling waste, and some other source specific wastes. A waste will be deemed hazardous if it is a waste listed by the EPA or if it meets certain technical characteristics, such as ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, and toxicity (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).The EPA has published background documents that identify numerous types of specific hazardous wastes carrying listing classifications.

Once an organization has listed a waste, the organization must go through a demanding delisting process before the material can be handled in a manner other than as a hazardous waste. There are limited exceptions to this principle which should be relied on only after careful legal and engineering review (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).Under the RCRA, any person or organization that creates or otherwise causes hazardous waste to be generated is deemed a generator, and has the burden of determining if the wastes it creates are hazardous wastes. All hazardous waste generators in the United States must notify the United States Environmental Protection Agency when initiating such activity and must additionally get a generator identification number. Generators have a duty to store their hazardous wastes properly and to properly label them. The RCRA allows for wastes to be properly stored for up to 90 days without triggering responsibility for obtaining a storage permit under the RCRA. During the generator storage period, technical obligations on the integrity of the storage area and the containers used, record keeping and inspection requirements apply (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).

Furthermore, a generator is required to have its wastes transported, treated and disposed of only by properly licensed parties. As a result, specific container integrity requirements apply, and Department of Transportation labeling requirements apply as well. The manifests are in prescribed forms that show the identity of the generator, transporter and disposal facility and the volume and classification of the waste (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).Copies are kept by each party, and generators must track their waste shipments and be able to show that its wastes were properly received at their destination (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).

When RCRA was enacted, facilities for the treatment storage or disposal of hazardous wastes were all required to notify EPA of their activities and submit information that formed part of what is known as a Part a permit. A Part a Permit was required to keep operating, and failure to have such a permit triggered a requirement that a facility go through a shut down process designed to assure that no environmental or health injury occurs once the operations cease. Organizations lawfully operating under Part a permits are in an interim status. Part B permits, on the other hand, are more detailed and demanding in their requirements. These permits include numerous specific technical safeguards, location standards, monitoring, inspection, training and reporting requirements, provision of financial assurances, and closure plans (Lee, at 35-39).

Corrective action requires also may be included within Part B permits or separate EPA orders, which are measures that address problems that exist at an operating site, such as residues of past spill events. For many organizations, the negotiation and enforcement of corrective action requirements is often a complex and controversial topic. The EPA has assumed broad authority to order corrective action, and the standards and cost of corrective action requirements rival and resemble other the remedial actions. Given the rigidity of the EPA definitions of hazardous waste, there has been a lot of pressure from the regulated community upon the EPA to set realistic cleanup goals that are measured in terms of real world risk, rather than the presence of minute molecular residues or unrealistic future exposure scenarios (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).

The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HSWA) of 1984 provided the EPA with the authority to require corrective action at operating sites, and imposed requirements that would lead to phasing out and elimination of land-based disposal of the majority of hazardous wastes, especially of hazardous wastes liquids. Such disposal is to occur only if and after specific wastes subject to the land ban are treated to a standard that represents what EPA determines is a level that takes away the toxicity of a waste or its ability to migrate in the environment so as to no longer pose any threat to human health or the environment (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).An exception to the land ban requirement exists for disposal at facilities from which the wastes can be shown not to be able to escape (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).

Research indicates that these no migration facilities must make a very demanding showing to be authorized to receive untreated hazardous waste, which is nearly impossible for landfill type units. Generally, disposal into very deep wells, where wastes enter rock formations that are far below any useful groundwaters may qualify as no-migration units, if it can be proven that there is no physical way the waste could move out of the permitted formation (Lee, at 35-39).

The result of the RCRA requirements on organizations is that treatment costs for hazardous wastes can bear serious financial burdens, often acting as a stimuli for rational business operation to reduce or even eliminate hazardous waste generation. This normal economic process is further encouraged by the waste minimization program requirements of RCRA (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).Organizations that violate the regulatory strictures and requirements of the RCRA are subjected to severe civil and criminal penalties. The EPA may commence a procedure of gathering information by issuance of an order to a suspected violator, or it may issue an administrative complaint.

Furthermore, the EPA and the Department of Justice may also proceed in Court, with civil penalties ranging up to $25,000 per violation per day, and criminal conviction for knowing violations including a potential $50,000 penalty per violation per day (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).Placing a person at risk of death or serious injury by an unlawful hazardous waste activity, may result in a $250,000 fine for individuals and imprisonment for up to fifteen years, and organizations may be fined up to $1,000,000 (Sheldon, at (http://www.epalaw.com/rcra.htm).

The RCRA additionally requires landfill owners to prove that they can afford to maintain their landfills after closure and to correct environmental problems the landfills cause. Trust funds are the most promising of the mechanisms owners may use to provide financial assurance (Lee, at 35-39). After the EPA banned small dumps, a large landfill industry arose, causing a reconfiguration of the solid waste industry. Public and private landfill owners face additional compliance deadlines under the municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill regulations issued by the EPA. One requirement of the new regulations is for the owner or operator of an MSW landfill to provide assurance that it can pay for closure, at least 30 years of post-closure care, and corrective action for environmental problems caused by the landfill (Lee, 35-39). Thus, financial assurance for post-closure care has emerged as a major concern of owning landfills in this country.

Closure costs include preparation of a closure plan, installation of additional… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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