The nation’s primary law for dealing with solid and hazardous waste is the RCRA. Designed to address the growing industrial and household waste problems, the RCRA was passed by the United States Congress on October 21, 1976. Among its modifications were provisions regarding optimal waste disposal, improving humans and the environment, conserving energy, and preserving the environment. By the RCRA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates hazardous waste from the cradle to the grave. One can use this method to generate, transport, treat, store, and dispose of hazardous waste. RCRA also established a framework for managing non-hazardous solid waste. RCRA was amended in 1986 to address environmental issues related to underground tanks containing hazardous substances and petroleum products.
“HSWA” is the acronym for the Federal Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments, which amend the RCRA in 1984 to improve waste minimization and eliminate land disposal of hazardous waste. It also requires the EPA to be given increased enforcement powers, and it imposes tighter standards for hazardous waste management.
Non-Hazardous Waste – Subtitle D: Solid waste under subtitle D of RCRA is non-hazardous. Subtitle D of the Federal Environmental Policy Act of 1990 lays out minimum federal requirements. These include prohibitions on wastes dumped openly, design criteria, restrictions on location, financial assurance, corrective action (cleanup), and closing deadlines. This regulation is implemented by states, which may impose more strict requirements than the federal government. Waste facilities must comply with federal requirements without an approved state program.
Hazardous Wastes – Subtitle C: There are special regulations for hazardous waste in RCRA Subtitle C. From the time hazardous waste is generated to its final disposal, EPA has developed programs to ensure its safety. According to Subtitle C, the EPA allows states to implement federal hazardous waste regulations. EPA is responsible for handling hazardous wastes in those states without a state program.
Underground Storage Tanks: Tanks including hazardous substances and petroleum products are covered by RCRA’s Subtitle I program for underground storage tanks (UST). The United States has approximately 540,000 UST that contain petroleum or hazardous materials. Nearly half of all Americans obtain their drinking water from groundwater, which a leaking UST can contaminate. With industry involvement, the EPA collaborates with states, territories, and tribes to protect human health and the environment.