For many years, both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MEDEP) have wrestled with the practical question of how solvent-contaminated wipes should be managed under hazardous waste regulations. The EPA and MEDEP solvent listings and the “mixture rule” capture many solvent wipes as hazardous waste, but because of the relatively low hazard they pose, EPA and MEDEP have informally allowed alternatives to traditional hazardous waste management and disposal.

In 2013, EPA concluded its rulemaking, adopting conditional exclusions from hazardous waste rules for most solvent-contaminated wipes. The final EPA rule excused generators and handlers from the usual hazardous waste requirements as long as certain conditions are met. The EPA regulation became effective on January 31, 2014, but states have to adopt the federal rule to make it state law. In 2013, Maine simply deferred to EPA’s rule, and abandoned MEDEP’s prior written policy.

MEDEP is now proposing specific language in its regulations to implement the EPA rule, and adopting an exclusion from the definition of hazardous waste. Under the rules, solvent-contaminated wipes must be managed in accord with specified minimum requirements, including avoiding free liquids at the time of shipment, a 180-day limit on storage, labeling containers with the words “Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes” and disposal or incineration using only certain incinerators/combustors, landfills, or laundering. In addition, there are several recordkeeping requirements, including documentation that the 180-day limit is met. Notably, trichloroethylene disposable wipes must be managed as a hazardous waste, and are not subject to the exclusion.

MEDEP’s specific language varies from EPA’s rule in several regards, including definitions, an explicit general requirement for free liquid removal, and a “sealing” of containers after 180 days. These changes, if preserved in the final rule, will raise questions of interpretation and possibly enforcement.

The proposed Maine rule is available at the following link: http://www.maine.gov/dep/rules/.