I am the manager of a job shop. Recently, we determined that it was less expensive to ship our waste acid off site for treatment and disposal rather than treat it with our own on-site wastewater treatment system. When the hazardous waste transporter arrived to pick up our first load, the driver asked if I had the tank certified as a hazardous waste storage tank. When I responded "no" and asked if this is needed and what are the requirements, he said that he was not sure of the specifics. I have never heard of this before. Is he right? Can you give me any guidance? C.B.
The next time you see your hazardous waste transporter, give him a big thanks. He has alerted you to a significant compliance issue of the EPA and your state's hazardous waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). In fact, you may want to re-evaluate the cost of disposing your waste acid off site.
Without any other information, your waste acid is at least a RCRA corrosive hazardous waste since its pH is less than 2.0. As long as this waste is stored in a tank as part of your wastewater pretreatment system, which is regulated under the Clean Water Act, it is exempt from a number of regulations under RCRA. However, once this tank is used to "store" hazardous waste before off-site treatment, storage or disposal, EPA hazardous waste generator regulations under 40CFR262.34(a)(1) become operative; this regulation exempts hazardous waste generators from permitting storage tanks as long as "the waste is placed in tanks and the generator complies with Subpart J of 40CFR265, except 265.197(c) and 265.200. In addition, such a generator is exempt from all the requirement of Subparts G and H of 40 CFR265, except 265.111 and 265.114;" sections 265.111 and 265.114 deal with closure of the tank after it is taken out of service and its decontamination and disposal.
These regulations spell out the numerous design and operating requirements for hazardous waste storage tanks including but not limited to material compatibility with waste, exterior corrosion protection, foundation support, seismic dislodgement prevention, tank tightness testing, installation, overfill protection, daily inspections, recordkeeping, secondary containment, secondary corrosion protection, precipitation run-on and runoff protection, accidental release detection, property setback, ancillary equipment (such as piping, pumps, and instrumentation) and labeling.
If you think these items look challenging, the regulations also require the certification of the tank or tank system's design and installation. Under USEPA 40CFR265.192(a), the tank's structural integrity and acceptance of hazardous waste must be certified by an independent, qualified, professional engineer. While under 40CFR265.192(f), the tank or tank system's installation must be certified by an independent, qualified, installation inspector or independent, qualified, professional engineer. The certification statement is defined under USEPA 40CFR270.11(d) and contains, in part, the following language: "I certify that under penalty of law that this document and all attachments were prepared under my direction or supervision in accordance with a system to assure that qualified personnel properly gather and evaluate the information submitted...." The most daunting challenge to you is finding documentation since the hazardous waste storage tank is already in use, and its design and installation was some years ago. Even if you can find the records and identify the design and installation parties, they will likely refuse to certify the tank's design and installation without performing additional work and charging a hefty fee. But all is not lost. Some time ago, we worked on a similar project and were able to work out language modifications that were acceptable with the state regulatory agency, the client and ourselves since it was not worthwhile for us to take on liability for which the client could not afford to pay us. In this case we used three certifications signed by three different entities: tank structural design, tank acceptance of hazardous waste and installation certification.
I strongly recommend that you engage professional help in resolving this matter before you are inspected by the EPA and then return the tank as part of your wastewater pretreatment system until it can be certified, for it is very likely that as you go through the certification process, modifications to its design and installation will have to be implemented. Lastly, if you decide to have a whole new tank or tank system designed and installed, get a professional engineer on board at the very beginning so that he can sign the certifications since all the work would be under his "direction or supervision." If a professional engineer did sign such certification without the work being performed under his "direction or supervision," it would be an ethics violation, and the professional engineer risks losing his license as well as being civilly prosecuted.