Closure and Post-Closure Care Requirements for Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities

When a hazardous waste management unit stops receiving waste at the end of its active life, it must be cleaned up, closed, monitored, and maintained in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) closure and post-closure care requirements. All hazardous waste management units, and the treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs) where they are located, are subject to closure and post-closure care requirements.

These requirements are found in title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in part 264 or part 265, subpart G Closure and Post-Closure. Part 264 applies to permitted facilities and part 265 applies to facilities in operation before these rules became effective, referred to as “interim status facilities”. The various types of hazardous waste management units (e.g., containers, tanks, drip pads, containment buildings, waste piles and surface impoundments) are also subject to unit specific closure requirements found in subparts I through X.

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At TSDFs where multiple hazardous waste management units are in operation, one unit may cease operation while the remaining units continue operating. This is known as partial closure. The closed units, or inactive portion of the facility, are subject to all applicable closure standards. Final closure occurs when all hazardous waste management units cease operation and close according to the regulations.

When closing units or facilities, two approaches are possible — clean closure or closure with the waste in place:

  • In clean closure, owners remove all wastes from the unit and decontaminate or remove all equipment, structures, and surrounding soils. Regulations require this approach for containers, tanks, waste piles, incinerators, drip pads, and containment buildings.
  • Closing with the waste in place, sometimes referred to as “closure as a landfill,” is the required closure method for landfills, land treatment units, and any other hazardous waste management unit that cannot meet the clean closure requirements. This also includes when owners cannot remove all waste and contamination from tanks, waste piles, drip pads, and containment buildings.

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Closure Plans

All TSDFs are required to prepare and submit written closure plans. A permitted facility submits this plan as part of its permit application. Once the plan is approved by the permitting agency, it becomes part of the facility’s operating permit. Interim status facilities must have written closure plans within six months of becoming subject to the closure regulations.

All closure plans must include:

  • A description of how each hazardous waste management unit will be closed.
  • A description of how final closure of the facility will be achieved.
  • An estimate of the maximum amount of hazardous waste kept on site during the facility’s operating life.
  • A detailed description of closure methods, including waste removal and site decontamination.
  • A description of any other required steps, such as groundwater monitoring and leachate management.
  • A schedule of closure dates, including closure dates for each unit and the entire facility.

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Closure Timetables

The regulations specify a strict timeline for completing closure. This process actually begins before the final shipment of waste is received by a unit or facility with a notification of intent to close. Facilities with landfills, surface impoundments, land treatment units, and waste piles are required to notify the EPA Regional Administrator 60 days prior to the date on which they intend to begin partial or final closure. Facilities with containers, tanks, incinerators or boilers and industrial furnaces must make the notification 45 days in advance.

After a unit receives its last shipment of hazardous waste, it has 30 days to commence closure operations. Within 90 days of receipt of the last shipment, all waste must be removed (if clean closing) or disposed on site (if closing with waste in place). All closure operations must be completed within 180 days of receiving the final waste shipment. In some cases, it may be possible for the facility to receive extensions on the 90- and 180-day deadlines from the EPA Regional Administrator.

After closure operations are complete, the facility has 60 days to certify closure completion by submitting a written certification via registered mail to the EPA Regional Administrator. This certification must be signed by an independent, registered, professional engineer. At the same time (i.e., within 60 days of completing closure), a survey plat indicating the location and dimensions of the closed hazardous waste management unit(s) or facility must be submitted to the EPA Regional Administrator or local zoning authority.

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Delay of Closure

Some facilities may be able to delay final closure and continue to receive nonhazardous waste after receipt of the final shipment of hazardous waste. This option is only available to landfills, surface impoundments and land treatment units. Only units with sufficient excess capacity that receive permission from the EPA Regional Administrator may delay closure.

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Post-Closure Care

Post-closure care is required for land disposal units that leave waste in place upon closure (i.e., landfills, land treatment units, surface impoundments, or any other hazardous waste management unit that cannot achieve the clean closure standards). These sites must monitor and maintain liners, final covers, leachate collection and removal systems, leak detection systems, and gas collection systems to protect the surrounding environment and population from releases of hazardous constituents. The standard post-closure care period is 30 years, but this can be shortened or extended on a case-by-case basis by the permitting authority (i.e., the EPA Region or the authorized state regulatory agency).

All units and facilities required to provide post-closure care are subject to the general post-closure requirements found at 40 CFR §§264.117 through 264.120 or §§265.117 through 121. Each unit is also subject to unit specific post-closure care requirements found in 40 CFR part 264 or 265 subparts:

  • K (Surface Impoundments)
  • L (Waste Piles)
  • M (Land Treatment)
  • N (Landfills)
  • X (Miscellaneous Units)

All facilities required to provide post-closure care need to obtain a post-closure care permit. In applying for a permit, the facility must complete and submit a post-closure care plan. This plan includes:

  • A description of the planned groundwater monitoring program.
  • A description of planned maintenance activities for the waste containment systems (e.g., liners, final covers, leachate management systems).
  • Contact information during the required post-closure care period.

Once the post-closure care period ends, the facility owner/operator must provide (via registered mail) a certification of post-closure care completion to the EPA Regional Administrator. This certification is due within 60 days of completing post-closure care and must be signed by the facility owner/operator and an independent, registered professional engineer.

Post-Closure Care Guidance

EPA has issued the Guidelines for Evaluating and Adjusting the Post-Closure Care Period for Hazardous Waste Disposal Facilities under Subtitle C of RCRA. This guidance assists regulators in evaluating conditions at hazardous waste disposal facilities subject to Subtitle C of the RCRA that are approaching the end of the original 30-year post-closure care period, and in determining whether the post-closure care period should be adjusted or allowed to end. It also provides information to assist facility owners and operators in preparing documentation to inform the regulators’ evaluations. This guidance increases transparency and efficiency to the decision making process.

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Corrective Action

EPA amended the regulations governing closure of land-based units that have released hazardous constituents to allow certain units to be addressed through the Corrective Action program. Because of this, EPA and the RCRA Corrective Action authorized states have discretion to use corrective action requirements, rather than closure requirements, to address the regulated units. This flexibility reduces the potential for confusion and inefficiency created by the application of two different regulatory requirements for similar, and sometimes mixed, environmental contamination.

Below are two documents that provide guidance on EPA’s policies for the post-life activities of regulated units. These policies include both closure and corrective action:

Document Title Description
Post Closure Rule

This document is a federal register notice regarding closure requirements for hazardous waste management facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in two areas. First, EPA modified the requirements for a post-closure permit, to allow EPA and the authorized States to use a variety of authorities to impose requirements on non-permitted land disposal units requiring post-closure care. Second, for all facilities, the EPA amended the regulations governing closure of land-based units that have released hazardous constituents, to allow certain units to be addressed through the Corrective Action Program.

Risk Based Clean Closure Memo

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide guidance on risk-based clean closure and to confirm that, under current regulations, RCRA regulated units may be clean closed to protective, risk-based media cleanup levels.

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