Regulatory compliance with state and federal environmental laws is imperative to the successful operations of many California businesses. Though there are a myriad of rules and regulations that businesses must follow, many of the problems that businesses run into when it comes to environmental control concern hazardous waste. This post will generally defined what hazardous waste is and what businesses should do to dispose of it. As with al of the posts on this blog, however, readers are reminded that no part of this post should be read as legal or regulatory advice.
Explanation of hazardous waste per the Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency, also known as the EPA, is the governmental organization that promulgates and enforces many environmental laws. According to the EPA, hazardous waste is solid waste that meets specific criteria, such as:
- Inclusion on one of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act lists of regulations; or
- It is reactive, corrosive, toxic, or ignitable as defined under the law.
“Solid waste” does not necessarily mean solid. It can be gaseous or liquid as well, and is a product that is no longer being used by an entity in its operations.
What to do with hazardous waste
Hazardous waste has its name because it can be a hazard to various forms of life. When it seeps into water supplies, soaks into the ground, and dissipates into the air, it can contaminate and harm many different ecosystems and types of life. Some of the damage done by hazardous waste is irreversible, and cleaning up improperly managed hazardous waste can be both dangerous and costly.
How a business must manage the disposal of its hazardous waste will depend on its status under the EPA. Business entities may be classified as large quantity generators, small quantity generators, or conditionally exempt small quantity generators. These statuses are assigned based on the types of work the entities perform and the substances they use in their processes.
Some hazardous waste is subject to land disposal, but other forms of hazardous waste must be treated before it can go through the disposal process. The failure of a business to properly manage the disposal of hazardous waste can result in serious and expensive fines against organizations.
Dealing with environmental regulations regarding hazardous waste can be confusing. One of the best ways for businesses to prepare for disposal issues is to understand their duties and responsibilities under the law before they are required to act. To do this, many entities choose to solicit the advice and representation of environmental law attorneys to support their legal needs and prepare for their regulatory compliance mandates.