Hazardous Waste Compliance Monitoring

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Subtitle C establishes a federal program to manage hazardous wastes from cradle to grave. The objective of the Subtitle C program is to ensure that hazardous waste is handled in a manner that protects human health and the environment.

The RCRA hazardous waste compliance monitoring program works in conjunction with the Agency's hazardous waste compliance assistance activities as well as the RCRA civil enforcement program.

An important component of the enforcement process is the authority to monitor facilities for verification of compliance with the regulations. The Agency collects compliance monitoring information primarily through facility inspections and information requests.

Inspections are conducted by EPA, authorized states, or both, or authorized representatives of either EPA or authorized states. Typically, either the state or EPA has overall responsibility, or the lead, for conducting the inspection. The inspector's role is to gather information that will then be used by the region and/or state to determine compliance status. A number of different types of inspections are conducted under RCRA authority.  These inspections include:

  • Compliance Evaluation Inspection

    The compliance evaluation inspection (CEI) is an on-site evaluation of a hazardous waste handler's compliance with RCRA regulations and permit standards. The purpose of the CEI is to gather information necessary to determine compliance and support enforcement actions.

    The inspection may include:

    • a characterization of the handler's activities
    • identification of the types of hazardous wastes managed on-site
    • a record review of reports
    • documents, and on-site plans
    • the identification of any units that generate, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste
  • Compliance Sampling Inspection

    EPA sometimes finds it necessary to inspect a facility in order to collect samples for laboratory analysis. These sampling inspections are very resource-intensive because they require advanced planning for the sampling scheme and laboratory analysis. A sampling inspection may be conducted in conjunction with a CEI or any other inspection.

  • Comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring Evaluation

    During the comprehensive groundwater monitoring evaluation (CME), enforcement officials evaluate the adequacy of the design and operation of a facility's groundwater monitoring system. This
    evaluation should be completed by a hydrogeologist.

    It includes:

    • a review of the owner and operator's characterization of the hydrogeology underlying the hazardous waste management units
    • monitoring well placement, depth, and spacing
    • well design and construction

    The CME is used to determine whether a facility implementing detection monitoring should instead be using compliance or assessment monitoring. CMEs at compliance or assessment monitoring facilities include a detailed examination of the assessment monitoring plan and implementation of the plan.

  • Case Development Inspection

    The case development inspection (CDI) is an intensive investigation that is conducted to gather sufficient information to support an enforcement action. The CDI can be used to collect supplemental data to support a forthcoming enforcement action identified through a CEI, a CME, or a record review.

  • Operation and Maintenance Inspection

    The operation and maintenance inspection (OMI) occurs periodically, evaluating whether a groundwater monitoring system is continuing to function as designed. The OMI focuses on the condition of the wells and their associated sampling devices. The findings from an OMI will indicate whether case development is warranted or will serve to focus future CMEs.

  • Information Gathering

    In addition to authorizing EPA to conduct inspections, Section 3007 allows the Agency to request specific information from "...any person who generates, stores, treats, transports, disposes of, or otherwise handles or has handled hazardous wastes." This means EPA may request information from past generators as well as those parties who may not have been subject to the RCRA regulations, but who have actually handled hazardous waste.

    Normally the public has access to the information obtained under Section 3007 authority. The facility owner and operator may, however, claim records or other information gathered by EPA as confidential business information by submitting the information with a cover sheet stamped "confidential," "trade secret," or "proprietary information" (Section 3007(b)). EPA will then determine whether or not the material is confidential.

    In addition to obtaining information for enforcement proceedings, EPA may use Section 3007 authority to gather data to assist in the development of regulations and to track program progress and accomplishments.

EPA and states’ main focus areas of compliance are:

  • Identification of hazardous waste

    Hazardous waste identification (HWID) is a first critical step in the management of hazardous waste.  Compliance activities monitor whether correct determinations have been made and whether a waste meets the RCRA definition of hazardous waste.

  • Hazardous waste generators

    The compliance monitoring requirements for generators involve:

    • hazardous waste determination
    • EPA identification numbers
    • manifesting
    • pre-transport requirements
    • record keeping and reporting
    • exports

    Large Quantity Generators

    Large scale hazardous waste management facilities generate a majority of the nation’s hazardous waste. Large quantity generators (LQG) are defined as those facilities that generate greater than 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per calendar month (approximately 2,200 lbs) or greater than 1 kg of acutely hazardous waste per calendar month (approximately 2.2 lbs).

    Small Quantity Generators

    Small quantity generators (SQG) are defined as those facilities that generate between 100 kg (approximately 220 lbs) and 1,000 kg of hazardous waste per calendar month and accumulate less than 6,000 kg (approximately 13,200 lbs) of hazardous waste at any time.

  • Hazardous waste transporters

    A hazardous waste transporter under Subtitle C of RCRA is any person engaged in the off-site transportation of hazardous waste within the United States, if such transportation requires a manifest.

    The compliance monitoring requirements for transporters include such standards as:

    • an EPA identification number
    • transfer facility requirements
    • manifesting and record keeping
    • actions to be taken in the event of hazardous waste discharges or spills

    The RCRA Training Module about Transporters contains a summary of the regulatory requirements under 40 CFR part 269. Information on the requirements for hazardous waste transporters can be found in chapter 3 of the RCRA Orientation Manual.

  • Treatment, storage and disposal (waste management) facilities

    The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) establishes the authority to regulate treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs). TSDFs are the last link in the cradle-to-grave hazardous waste management system. The requirements for TSDFs, located in 40 CFR Parts 264 and 265, are more extensive than the standards for generators and transporters and include:

    • EPA identification numbers
    • waste analysis
    • inspection requirements
    • personnel training
    • preparedness and prevention of releases
    • contingency plan and emergency procedures
    • manifesting
    • record keeping and reporting
    • requirements for releases from solid waste management units, closure and post-closure requirements
    • financial requirements

    Inspectors look at:

    • use and management of containers
    • tank systems
    • surface impoundments
    • waste piles
    • land treatment
    • landfills
    • incinerators
    • drip pads
    • miscellaneous other units
    • corrective action for solid waste management units

    TSDFs also must comply with air emission standards for process vents, equipment leaks, tanks, surface impoundments, and contains, in addition to requirements for containing buildings.

Relevant Rules Monitoring Responsibilities
Identification and listing of hazardous waste, 40 CFR Part 261 State authorized programs or EPA direct implementation
Standards applicable to generators of hazardous waste, 40 CFR Part 262 State authorized programs or EPA direct implementation
Standards applicable to transporters of hazardous waste, 40 CFR Part 263 State authorized programs or EPA direct implementation
Standards for owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities, 40 CFR Parts 264; and Interim status standards for owners and operators of hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities, 40 CFR Part 265 State authorized programs or EPA direct implementation