Like all businesses, hazardous waste and universal waste generators and handlers in California are impacted by the current coronavirus crisis and many are struggling to comply with the various hazardous waste and environmental compliance deadlines as they also manage the challenges associated with stay-at-home orders, working from home and social distancing. Conducting weekly waste area inspections can seem like a low priority when we are trying to keep our business functioning while keeping our workers safe.
Unfortunately, the various public health orders and recommended practices that have been established to “flatten the curve” have not changed the underlying EPA and DTSC regulatory requirements. All California hazardous waste generators are still expected to comply with applicable satellite accumulation area (SAA) and central accumulation area (CAA) requirements as well as requirements to update their hazardous materials business plan (HMBP) in the California Environmental Reporting System (CERS), to ensure workers stay current on hazardous waste training, to comply with applicable tiered permitting requirements and to satisfy other environmental responsibilities.
Most CUPAs and PAs take a practical, pragmatic approach and it is likely that they will show flexibility and understanding during future inspections, however the expectation from DTSC, Cal/EPA and EPA is that all parties will comply with applicable requirements. For example the DTSC (https://dtsc.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2020/04/DTSC-EERD-COVID-19-Guidance_4-06-20_a.pdf) recognizes the hardships created by coronavirus control measures but states that:
If compliance is not possible, the DTSC guidance document says that waste generators and others should document the specific requirement, why the delay occurred and what is being done to return to compliance. There is also a procedure to request an extension to hazardous waste accumulation time periods for up to 30 days from the EPA (for RCRA wastes) of from the local CUPA (for non-RCRA wastes).
This approach is consistent with guidance from Cal/EPA (parent organization of the DTSC) at https://calepa.ca.gov/2020/04/15/calepa-statement-on-compliance-with-regulatory-requirements-during-the-covid-19-emergency/ which confirms the importance of environmental protection (through regulatory compliance). Cal/EPA recognizes covid-related hardships but avoids blanket exemptions and instead states:
So the bottom line from California environmental regulators is that generators can apply for exemptions or extensions under limited circumstances but that they need to do everything they can to dispose of their waste in a timely manner and comply with other applicable requirements, even under these challenging circumstances.
At ACTenviro, we will do whatever we can to support you through these tough times. Please let us know how we can help – reach out any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
James Kapin, MPH, CIH, CSP
Director of EM Services