You may conduct a variety of inspections at your facility: quality control and regulatory standard, recommended and required, documented and undocumented. If you generate a hazardous waste, conducting periodic inspections of certain critical risk areas is a good idea. If you are a Large Quantity Generator or a Small Quantity Generator of hazardous waste, you are required to conduct weekly inspections of your hazardous waste accumulation containers. I will use this article to address the weekly inspection requirements required by US EPA regulation for accumulation containers of hazardous waste at LQG’s & SQG’s, it will not address…
- The inspection requirements for tanks. For more information on these management units an LQG should refer to 40 CFR 265.195 and an SQG should refer to 40 CFR 265.201.
- The inspection requirements for the two remaining hazardous waste management units after tanks and containers: Drip Pads [40 CFR 262.34(a)(iii)] and Containment Buildings [40 CFR 262.34(a)(iv)].
- The inspection requirements of individual states, I will explain the regulations of the US EPA only. Check with your State for clarification of these regulations unless you reside in Iowa, Alaska, or Puerto Rico since they lack approved programs to enforce RCRA.
To fully understand the inspection requirements it helps to appreciate the path that leads you to it. You begin at 40 CFR 262.34(b) for an LQG and 40 CFR 262.34(d)(2) if an SQG; these are the accumulation time limit regulations for hazardous waste generators and are the starting point for most regulations applicable to generators of hazardous waste. In this case both regulations point to 40 CFR 265.174—Inspections which is part of Subpart I—Use and Management of Containers. 40 CFR 265 is designed for Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDF’s) that do not yet have a permit – thus “interim” – however, many times LQG’s and SQG’s are subject to these requirements as well.
At 40 CFR 265.174 you find this: At least weekly, the owner or operator must inspect areas where containers are stored, except for Performance Track member facilities, that must conduct inspections at least once each month, upon approval by the Director. To apply for reduced inspection frequency, the Performance Track member facility must follow the procedures described in §265.15(b)(5) of this part. The owner or operator must look for leaking containers and for deterioration of containers caused by corrosion or other factors. Let’s take a look at this succinct and critical regulation one piece at a time.
“At least weekly…” – The US EPA does not define what weekly means; it has left the clarification of its meaning to the individual states. However, based on my experience, it is safe to assume that this does not mean once per calendar week, but rather: every seven days. In other words, if you complete an inspection on Wednesday December 21st and the next week on Thursday December 29th, eight days separate the inspections and you have committed a violation. Also, the regulations do not say anything about suspending the requirement during facility shut-downs (either planned or unplanned). Therefore, the weekly – every 7 days – inspections must be completed even when you are shut-down for the holidays or maintenance if you have hazardous waste on-site.
“…inspect areas where containers are stored,” – This applies to anywhere within your facility that hazardous waste is generated, treated, accumulated, or stored; with one exception. It does not apply to containers in satellite accumulation areas since 40 CFR 262.34(c) does not make compliance with 40 CFR 265.174 a requirement for hazardous waste containers managed in an SAA. A container is defined at 40 CFR 260.10 as: any portable device in which a material is stored, transported, treated, disposed of, or otherwise handled. Thus it could include anything from a test tube to a 500-gallon portable tank to a 5,000-gallon tank mounted on a transport vehicle.
“…except for Performance Track member facilities…” – Forget it. The National Environmental Performance Track is kaput. Read its obituary here.
“…must look for leaking containers and for deterioration of containers caused by corrosion or other factors…” – The sole reason for the inspection is to determine the condition of the containers. However, I recommend you take advantage of this opportunity to confirm your compliance with the following requirements as well: labeling, date of accumulation, closed containers, condition of containment system (if required by your state), emergency communication and response equipment (as applicable), warning signs, and adequate aisle space. Be sure to correct any errors you may find immediately and document the response action you take. If damaged containers are found you must immediately transfer or manage the waste per 40 CFR 265.171.
Interesting that there is no requirement for generators of hazardous waste to document inspections or keep a log. However, your state may require some form of documentation to prove you have been completing inspections as required. I recommend you document your inspections and maintain records for at least three years.
Besides fulfilling the regulatory requirement, completion of a weekly inspection of your hazardous waste containers (I recommend you include SAA’s) is a good way to maintain regulatory compliance and provide a safe work environment. Employees who complete these inspections should receive training on the applicable regulations and what it is they should be looking for