The Law on Hazardous Substances, Materials and Waste has been approved by the National Assembly and awaits signing by the Executive Branch.

The purpose of the law is to regulate the generation, use, collection, storage, transportation, treatment and disposal of hazardous substances, materials and waste, as well as any other operation that involves these products. The law also regulates substances and materials that are typically used for agricultural, industrial, scientific research, education and production purposes.

Controlling the use of hazardous substances and materials, the recovery of hazardous materials and the elimination and disposal of hazardous waste are stated as being in the public interest.

The law prohibits the following:

  • the introduction of pathological and hazardous waste into the country;
  • the discharge of hazardous substances, materials or waste into soil, bodies of water and the air; and
  • any use, importation or distribution of persistent organic contaminating chemical products (except the insecticide DDT, which will be used by official bodies in a restricted manner).

The international trade of hazardous substances or materials will be regulated in accordance with domestic legislation and relevant international treaties and agreements.

The law states that hazardous substances, materials and waste will be classified in accordance with definitions by the United Nations.

The law will apply to any entity that (i) owns, generates, uses or handles substances, materials or waste that might comprise persistent contaminants or that might be capable of depleting the ozone layer, or (ii) imports hazardous substances or materials for industrial, commercial, scientific, medical or other purposes.

The law stipulates the obligations and requirements to be complied with for the generation, use and handling of hazardous substances, materials or waste. The state will foster the activities of entities that involve the recovery of recoverable hazardous materials and the appropriate final disposal of hazardous waste, provided that environmental quality parameters are improved.

The competent authorities are:

  • the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN);
  • the Ministry of Energy and Mines;
  • the Ministry of Health and Social Development;
  • the Ministry of Production and Trade; and
  • the Ministry of Defence.

The new law creates the following entities:

  • the presidential committee, with the purpose of orienting and establishing the government's policies and strategies for regulating and controlling the use and handling of hazardous substances, materials and waste;
  • the permanent inter-agency and interdisciplinary team which will operate under the presidential committee, with the purpose of coordinating, assisting and supervising in emergencies and disasters generated by hazardous substances, materials or waste;
  • a technical secretariat to the consulting commission, which will be instituted by MARN and will organize a multidisciplinary team for the coordination, assistance and execution of plans and projects for attending to environmental emergencies and disasters; and
  • the state consulting boards, under MARN's coordination, for the purpose of achieving community participation.

Finally, the law also deals with:

  • the use and handling of hazardous substances and waste;
  • the handling of hazardous waste, waste from health centres, and radioactive substances, materials and waste;
  • the transportation and storage of hazardous substances, materials or waste;
  • the control of activities that involve the use of or generate hazardous substances, materials and waste;
  • compliance with the law; and
  • the penalties applicable for non-compliance.

Regulations to the law will be prepared within 180 days of publication of the law in the Official Gazette. The law will take effect 90 days after publication.

For further information on this topic please contact Maria Isabel Ponce or Angela C Antakly Heredia at Benson, Perez Matos, Antakly & Watts by telephone (+58 212 265 3801) or by fax (+58 212 265 9252) or by e-mail ([email protected] or [email protected]).

The materials contained on this web site are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.