EPA Completes Land Disposal Restrictions for Hazardous Wastes

[EPA press release - May 8, 1990]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the completion of a national program restricting the land disposal of hundreds of hazardous wastes, which will both reduce the toxicity of hazardous wastes and protect the nation's groundwater supplies.

EPA today issued the last of five scheduled rules which set treatment standards for hazardous wastes prior to land disposal. Thus most hazardous wastes managed under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) now must be treated to reduce their toxicity and mobility before they can be disposed of on land.

EPA Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Don R. Clay said, "This action completes a six-year program which will result in extensive and important changes in hazardous waste management. These rules will keep significant quantities of hazardous waste off the land, preventing future groundwater contamination and assuring safe management of these wastes.

"The program also will serve as a catalyst to prevent pollution by encouraging all hazardous waste producers to find ways to minimize their wastes," said Clay.

When fully effective in May 1992, this rule, combined with the previous rulings, is expected to require treatment of a total of seven million tons of hazardous waste disposed of on the surface in RCRA-regulated facilities.

An additional 34 million tons of RCRA wastes disposed of in deep wells regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act also will have to be treated by May 1992.

Compliance with today's rule will be required by August 8, 1990, for those wastes for which treatment capacity exists. Those requiring additional treatment capacity will be brought into compliance by May 1992. Under the law, if treatment capacity is not available for a particular hazardous waste at the time EPA issues the regulation, EPA may grant an extension of up to two years for generators of those wastes while they acquire adequate treatment capabilities.

EPA earlier set treatment standards for the most toxic and voluminous hazardous wastes, including wastes containing solvents and dioxins; liquid wastes containing cyanides, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and certain corrosive wastes.

Under its land ban regulations, EPA sets waste treatment standards, based on the best demonstrated available technology. For example, many treatment standards are based on the known results of hazardous waste incineration, which for certain wastes is the most effective treatment method available. Other standards may be based on biological or chemical decontamination, metals recovery or other forms of treatment.

Today's final rule affects 349 hazardous wastes listed on the agency's hazardous waste list; other unlisted hazardous wastes which meet the hazardous characteristics of toxicity, corrosivity, ignitibility and reactivity; multi-source leachate; and mixed radioactive and hazardous wastes.

Nearly 25 million tons of the wastes affected by today's rule are land disposed each year, and, of that, four million tons are disposed of in surface facilities and 21 million tons are disposed of in deep wells regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Treatment standards set in today's rule are based on available information, but are subject to revision as new data become available. EPA will continue to set and review treatment standards.

Estimated total costs of compliance of this rule range from $350 to $440 million a year, with the largest compliance costs predicted for electric, gas and sanitary service industries; chemicals and allied products; and the petroleum refining industry.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register in May.