EPA's Hazardous Waste Regulations Effective November 19, 1980

[EPA press release - November 19, 1980]

Starting today, November 19, hazardous waste handlers will be subject to stringent new EPA regulations designed to ensure safe management of their wastes.

On this date, the hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act go into effect. Hazardous waste producers are responsible for the ultimate disposal of their wastes, and for transporting and disposing of them according to EPA standards. Hazardous waste transporters and treatment, storage and disposal facility operators are also subject to the new regulations.

Shipment of the wastes to the facilities must follow new EPA/DOT transportation standards for hazardous waste. A new tracking system (called the "manifest" system) designed to ensure that the waste actually arrives at the pre-determined facility goes into effect today.

"The new nationwide tracking system aims at putting an end to the 'midnight dumper'--that person who for years has been in the business of disposing of dangerous wastes as cheaply as possible--into sewers, fields, along the roadside--with no thought to the long-term public health or environmental effects," said EPA Administrator Douglas M. Costle.

"We are now putting into motion a broad program developed by EPA, with significant input from industry and the public, to protect people and the environment from the improper handling of hazardous wastes," said Costle. "We will work closely with industry in the years ahead to firmly establish an effective, workable, and permanent system for the responsible handling of these wastes.

"We know that the technology is available today to ensure environmentally sound disposal facilities, including landfills, high-temperature incinerators and treatment plants. We hope the private sector will respond to industry's increasing need for first-rate facilities and secure disposal sites. EPA will help bring industry, local governments and the public together to ensure the safety of all facilities," said Costle.

As of November 12, 1980, 58,800 businesses had officially notified EPA that they were in the business of handling hazardous waste. Of these, 46,800 generate hazardous waste, 9500 transport hazardous waste, and 30,300 operate or own hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facilities. Those firms who handle hazardous waste and who have not notified EPA will be operating illegally, and should notify EPA as soon as possible to mitigate stringent civil and criminal penalties.

EPA plans to conduct an aggressive enforcement program to ensure compliance with the hazardous waste regulations. In general, the Agency expects to: (1) bring enforcement actions against persons who did not notify, especially generators since they are the key to the hazardous waste program; (2) ensure compliance with interim status standards by facilities who treat, store or dispose of their hazardous waste; (3) to participate with DOT to oversee activities of hazardous waste transporters, and (4) assure that generators are complying with the manifest systems and other reporting requirements.

Over the next fiscal year, EPA will conduct inspections of 2000 to 3000 generators and treatment, storage and disposal facilities. States which have received interim reauthorization or who have cooperative agreements with EPA will conduct additional inspections.

States having approved hazardous waste programs will be responsible for implementing the new Federal hazardous waste standards. Arkansas is the first State to receive such approval from EPA. Its program is also effective November 19, 1980.

The new regulations control the future management of hazardous waste, but do not address the health and environmental problems from past disposal practices. EPA estimates that as many as 50,000 sites containing toxic waste may exist across the country. "Superfund" legislation, proposed by EPA in June 1979, would authorize the needed funds to clean-up those estimated 1200-1500 sites which are causing real emergencies. That legislation is still pending in Congress.