The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is embarking on a compliance initiative to ensure that sources that handle hazardous waste are complying with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) requirements, particularly that sources are operating within their correct generator status, disclosing certain hazardous waste activities, and submitting required reports. Using data gathered from site visits to treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (“TSDs”), the EPA analyzes the quantities and type of waste that the TSD accepted for disposal and then compares this data to the reported records of waste a particular generator sent to the TSD. What the EPA is finding is that many sources are improperly categorizing their waste generator status and not disclosing all of the hazardous waste they generate. The majority of these sources are underreporting the amount of hazardous waste they generate and dispose of in the TSDs.

As a result, the EPA is taking a series of enforcement actions against generators, claiming that their waste generator status should be recategorized and penalizing them for improperly reporting the types and quantities of waste generated. Notably, some of the sources caught in these enforcement actions—hospitals and laboratories in particular—are not those typically involved in business associated with generating a large volume of hazardous waste. Over the last year, EPA Region 6 (the Region responsible for Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana) has assessed penalties ranging from $79,000 to $200,000 against small hospitals and laboratories for miscategorizing their RCRA generator status and avoiding the reporting requirements under the RCRA.

Retailers should also be mindful. In a recent address to industry representatives, John Blevins, the Director of the Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division for EPA Region 6, said that the EPA is also finding a high degree of noncompliance in the retail sector and that he expects additional enforcement actions to ensue in this sector.

In light of this initiative, medical service providers and retailers, in addition to sources that are in businesses that generate hazardous wastes (including those that are ignitable, corrosive, or explosive), should review the types and quantities of hazardous waste they generate, and ensure they are in compliance with the RCRA requirements—in particular, correctly identifying their RCRA generator status and reporting protocols.