Hazardous Waste Program

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Empty

From the archives of the Enforcement and Compliance Listserv for Hazardous Waste Generators

Feb. 2, 2006

During the last listserv we discussed the definition of RCRA empty for non-acute hazardous wastes. Now we will discuss the definition of RCRA empty for containers that once held acute hazardous wastes.

First, a review of acute hazardous wastes. Acute hazardous wastes possess extremely hazardous properties that make them harmful in very small quantities. Acute wastes have a regulatory threshold of 1 kg, for example if a business generates an acute waste at a rate 1 kg (or 2.2 lbs) or more per month, then the facility is regulated as a large quantity generator.  In Missouri dioxin waste (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) has a regulatory threshold of 1 gram.  Acute wastes are P-listed wastes, dioxin waste, any F-listed waste with a hazard code (H), and any residue or contaminated media resulting from the cleanup of a spill of those wastes.

What constitutes RCRA empty for acute wastes? According to 40 CFR 261.7(b)(3), a container or inner liner removed from a container that held an acute hazardous waste is empty if:
1) the container is triple rinsed with a solvent capable of removing the acute waste, or
2) the container has been cleaned by another method that has been shown in the scientific literature, or by tests conducted by the generator, to achieve equivalent removal, or
3) the inner liner that prevented contact between the acute waste and the container is removed.

It is important to remember that the rinsate from the action of triple rinsing a container of acute waste is considered an acute hazardous waste. Also, the solvent used in cleaning may exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic as well. If you decide to use an alternative cleaning method to clean containers you must document the equivalency of the method and its use. It is a good idea to discuss the use of an equivalent removal method with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Hazardous Waste Program. You may contact the program at 573-751-3176.

Jan. 17, 2006

What constitutes RCRA empty? According to 40 CFR 261.7(b)(1), a container or inner liner removed from a container that held a non-acute hazardous waste is empty if
1. All wastes have been removed that can be removed using 'commonly employed practices' from that type of container AND
2. No more than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) of residue remains on the bottom of the container or liner OR
3. No more than 3 percent by weight of the total capacity of the container remains if the container is less than or equal to 110 gallons* in size OR
4. No more than 0.3 percent by weight of the total capacity of the container remains if the container is greater than 110 gallons* in size

Commonly employed practices include pouring, pumping and aspirating and must be appropriate for the specific type of container you are emptying. For example, if the act of pouring from an upside-down 55-gallon drum removes more hazardous waste than only hand pumping it, then the drum should be inverted and drained.

As always, there are a couple of caveats. The above regulations exempt only the remaining residue in the container, not the container itself. If you wish to discard the container after emptying it you must make a hazardous waste determination on the container (some containers are made from lead, aerosol cans could exhibit reactivity, etc). Also, spent filter cartridges are not themselves considered containers by EPA thus they would not qualify for this exemption of remaining residue. And if you are rinsing a RCRA empty container with a solvent or other cleaner, the rinsate could be considered a hazardous waste. Next month we will discuss RCRA empty for your acute wastes.

* the 2005 federal EPA change in 40 CFR 261.7 increases the volume threshold from 110 gallons to 119 gallons to correlate with US Department of Transportation regulations, however the state of Missouri has yet to adopt these changes. When we do adopt these changes the listserv will let you know.

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