When Do You Need to Acquire a Hazardous Waste Permit?

With few exceptions, facilities and businesses that produce hazardous waste must acquire a hazardous waste permit. Any facility or business that generates, treats, stores, or disposes of hazardous wastes, or has plans to do so on an ongoing basis, must carry a hazardous waste permit. Though the EPA regulates hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), most hazardous waste permits are issued through state environmental agencies under the guidelines of the RCRA hazardous waste program. In some instances, permits are issued by EPA regional offices.

The permit program is one of many preventive measures in the cradle-to-grave management system intended to track hazardous wastes. There are few exemptions to acquiring a hazardous waste permit. To be eligible, businesses and facilities must meet certain conditions specified by the law. In short, hazardous waste generators do not need to obtain a permit if the hazardous waste is stored onsite for short periods before being transported off-site to a Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF).

Accumulating hazardous waste is, in general, not a good idea. For starters, it can seriously threaten human health and contaminate the building or site and the environment. That said, though the law does allow generators to store their hazardous waste for a short time without a hazardous waste permit, keep in mind that its safe management is the responsibility of generators. Before arranging transportation to a TSDF, the waste must be handled following federal regulations. This means safe storage, correctly labeled, safe treatment, accident prevention, and emergency response protocols must be in place and adhered to. 

If your business or facility is generating hazardous waste, the law pertaining to when or if you need to acquire a hazardous waste permit will be determined by several factors. Here’s what you need to know: 

Hazardous Waste Generators

The EPA recognizes hazardous waste generators as those entities or any person that produces hazardous waste through their actions or processes. Because generators of hazardous waste produce waste in different quantities, the EPA regulates generators based on the volume of waste they generate within a calendar month, not by the size of the facility or business. 

Regulations divide generators into three categories, appropriately classified as, Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs), Small Quantity Generators (SQGs), and Large Quantity Generators (LQGs).

Very Small Quantity Generators

When discussing Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQGs) you may hear the category referred to by its previous name, Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG). The EPA renamed the CESQG category to VSQGs a few years ago to reflect a few rule changes that brought clarity and flexibility to the requirements of all the hazardous waste generator categories. 

VSQGs are exempt from full hazardous waste requirements associated with SQGs and LQGs. That said, very small generators cannot generate more than 220 lbs (100 kg) of hazardous waste or 1 kg of acutely hazardous waste per month. To be categorized as a VSQG, a facility must meet and comply with three basic waste management criteria. First, the facility must identify all hazardous waste generated there. Secondly, no more than 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of hazardous waste can be stored on-site. Finally, VSQG facilities must ensure the safe delivery of their hazardous waste to an off-site treatment or disposal facility.

Small Quantity Generators (SQGs) 

Any facility that produces more than 220 lbs. (100 kgs) of hazardous waste per month but no more than 2,200 lbs. (1000 kgs) is classified as an SQG. Hazardous waste stored onsite cannot exceed 13,227 lbs. (6,000 kg) over 180 days without a storage facility permit. However, if TSDF is more than 200 miles, SQGs have a 270-day window to store the waste without a permit. 

Large Quantity Generators (LGQs)

A business is classified as an LQG if the facility generates 2200 lbs. (1000 kgs) or more hazardous waste per calendar month. LQGs can accumulate hazardous waste for up to 90 days onsite without a storage facility permit, with no limit to how much. 

How long a generator can accumulate hazardous waste onsite without a permit depends on how much hazardous waste is generated at the facility in a calendar month. To be clear, the total accumulation requirements for VSQGs, SQGs, and LQGs depend on volume, not the size of the business. Compliance with the law is mandatory. The penalties for businesses and facilities that are found in non-compliance can be significant. And each state differs as federal regulations allow states to adopt more stringent regulations.

Ultimately, whether or not your business will require a hazardous waste permit will depend on how complicated the waste generation is at your facility. You may require in-house expertise, but it may be more economical to partner with a professional waste management company.

Contact the Experts at MLI Environmental

MLI Environmental offers comprehensive and specialized hazardous waste removal services for businesses, healthcare facilities, schools, universities, manufacturers, laboratories, and more. Our professionally trained and licensed experts can help answer your state’s permitting questions. We are a full-service waste management company that routinely helps and ensures that businesses comply with hazardous waste regulations. Contact us today for more information on how we can assist you in meeting all your hazardous waste obligations, including permitting.