Definition of Hazardous Waste

A Department of Environmental Quality inspector applied the “duck” test (“If it walks and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck”) to a vat of caustic sitting unused at an Oregon metal reclaiming facility.  Because the vat was sitting idle and the unheated caustic solution in the vat was a dirty solid, the Department inspector decided that the vat was an unpermitted hazardous waste management unit.  Environmental Compliance established that the unit was part of the manufacturing process (the “dirty” or “first” dip tank), that the caustic was not spent although much detritus had accumulated in the tank, and that there had been no decision to discard the caustic (which indeed continued to be reheated and used from time to time when particularly corroded or greasy parts arrived to be cleaned.)  All too often, DEQ and DOE skip the analysis of whether a material is even a “solid waste” before applying the hazardous and dangerous waste rules.  The agencies are reluctant to recognize the very limited jurisdiction afforded by Congress when it passed RCRA in 1976.  If a Department official is telling you how to run your manufacturing process (e.g., by requiring secondary containment, record keeping, etc.) then Environmental Compliance may be able to help you explain to the Department why its regulatory oversight is not needed.