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Hazardous Waste Regulations


Overview

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act or RCRA (pronounced "rick-rah") gave EPA the authority to regulate hazardous waste from its generation point to its final destination ("cradle-to-grave").  The objective of this law is to ensure that hazardous waste is, at all times, handled in a manner that protects human health and the environment.  These regulations:

  • define which solid wastes are hazardous, and
  • establish rules for three categories of hazardous waste handlers:
    • generators (including importers),
    • transporters, and
    • treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs)

State Regulations

Most states (including Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas) have their own versions of the RCRA hazardous waste regulations, which are based on the federal rules. In some states, the requirements are the same as the federal standards.  Other states have developed more stringent requirements than the federal program.  If wastes enter the U.S. in one state and are transported to a different state for disposal, then, depending on your role, you may need to investigate the rules for more than one state.

RCRA/Hazardous Waste State Resource Locator


EPA Identification Numbers

All persons who import, generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste are required under RCRA and the related state regulations to:

  • notify EPA and their state of their hazardous waste activities and

  • obtain an EPA Identification (ID) Number

In Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas this is accomplished through your state environmental agency.


Manifests

A hazardous waste manifest must accompany all hazardous waste that is imported from the time it enters the U.S. until it reaches its final destination. The manifest is a multipart form designed to track hazardous waste from generation to disposal (cradle to grave). The importer is responsible for preparing and signing the manifest form before the waste is transported in the U.S. The transporter and TSDF also sign the manifest form. Each waste handler must retain copies of the forms for at least three years.


Importer

Waste generated in another country, such as Mexico, cannot be tracked by EPA or a state agency until it enters the U.S.  Therefore, for regulatory purposes, EPA considers the importer of the waste to be the "generator".  This is important because the importer must meet all the rules applicable to waste generators.

EPA does not strictly define who the importer is .  It can be any party, who helped arrange for the importation (e.g. the broker, transporter, disposal facility, parent company, etc.).  In cases where more than one party could be defined as the importer, the EPA recommends that the parties involved decide among themselves who will act as the importer.

The importer's responsibilities include:

  • acquiring an EPA identification number,
  • preparing a hazardous waste manifest that stays with the waste from the time it enters the U.S. until it is safely disposed of,
  • assuring that the waste got to its final destination, and
  • reporting and recordkeeping.

Transporters

If you transport hazardous waste beyond the customs yard, then you must:

  • have an EPA Identification Number,
  • sign the waste manifest form,
  • take appropriate action and report any spills or accidents that occur in route, and
  • retain copies of manifests for at least three years
Note that if the transporter who carried the waste across the border did not transport the waste beyond the customs yard, then that transporter does not need to be identified on the manifest.

Warehouses

Some hazardous wastes imported from Mexico are temporarily stored in U.S. warehouses before being transported to a disposal site. EPA considers a warehouse to be a "transfer facility." Hazardous wastes may be stored in a transfer facility for a maximum of 10 days. For a facility to store wastes for longer than 10 days requires a RCRA treatment/storage/disposal facility (TSDF) permit.


Your Responsibilities

The information on this web page is only an overview of the hazardous waste regulations. Depending on your role, there are several sources of hazardous waste information on the Border Center that you will want to access:

 

 

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