Chemfilm Disposal Part II

Question: I am inquiring about your answer to the question Chemfilm Disposal , published in the September 2004 issue.


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I am inquiring about your answer to the question Chemfilm Disposal , published in the September 2004 issue. Particularly, I am interested in the process of reducing the volume of sludge to reduce the volume and weight of the waste material.

We would commonly take some sludge from the bottom of our soak or electrocleaning tanks, a listed waste, F008, and we would place this into a metal drum. We would then take this drum and place it into an oven to evaporate water out of the sludge.

We know this is a common practice in our area. Our state RCRA hazardous waste inspectors do not approve of this as they say it is not “plumbed in” as part of our waste treatment system.

Could you direct us to some specific regulations why this is an acceptable practice, and why this process and material does not require a hazardous waste treatment permit? R.E.


There is much confusion regarding USEPA’s interpretation of what is or is not “treatment” of hazardous waste. A good place to start is with some terms and how they are defined under USEPA’s hazardous waste regulations, 40CFR260.10:

  • Container: “any portable device in which a material is stored, transported, treated, disposed of or otherwise handled.”
  • Elementary Neutralization Unit:1) is used for neutralizing wastes that share hazardous only because they exhibit the corrosivity characteristic...or they are listed in subpart D of part 261...only for this reason; and 2) meets the definition of tank, tank system, container...”
  • Incinerator: “any enclosed device that: 1) uses controlled flame combustion and neither meets the criteria for classification as a boiler, sludge dryer or carbon regeneration unit, nor is listed as an industrial furnace; or 2) meets the definition of infrared incinerator or plasma arc incinerator.”
  • Sludge: “means any solid, semi-solid, or liquid waste generated from a municipal, commercial, or industrial wastewater treatment plant, water supply treatment plant, or air pollution control facility exclusive of the treated effluent from a wastewater treatment plant.”
  • Sludge Dryer: “any enclosed thermal treatment device that is used to dehydrate sludge and that has a maximum total thermal input, excluding the heating value of the sludge itself, of 2,500 Btu/lbs of sludge treated on a wet-weight basis.”
  • Tank: “a stationary device, designed to contain an accumulation of hazardous waste, which is constructed primarily of non-earthen materials (e.g., wood, concrete, steel, plastic), which provide structural support.”
  • Tank System: “a hazardous wastestorage or treatment tank and its associated ancillary equipment and containment system.”
  • Totally Enclosed Treatment Facility: "a facility for the treatment of hazardous waste, which is directly connected to an industrial production process and is constructed and operated in a manner that prevents the release of hazardous waste or any constituent thereof into the environment during treatment. An example is a pipe in which waste acid is neutralized.”
  • Wastewater Treatment Unit: “a device which: 1) is part of a wastewater treatment facility that is subject to regu lation under either section 402 or 307(b) of the Clean Water Act and 2) receives and treats or stores an influent wastewater that is a hazardous waste as defined in...this chapter or that generates and accumulates a wastewater treatment sludge that is a hazardous waste as defined...in this chapter or treats or stores a wastewater treatment sludge, which is a hazardous waste as defined in...this chapter and 3) meets the definition of tank or tank system...”


Furthermore, under 40CFR270.1(c)(2), where are a few exemptions from hazardous waste treatment that we should note:

  • “(iv) owners and operators of totally enclosed treatment facilities as defined in 40CFR260.10”
  • “(v) owners and operators of elementary neutralization units and wastewater treatment units as defined in 40CFR260.10”.


With these definitions and exemptions in mind, let’s take a look at your situation. Since your waste has an EPA hazardous waste designation of F008, we assume it is from an electroplating operation that contains cyanide (40CFR261.31). Therefore, the waste’s corrosivity (pH > 12.5) is NOT the only reason it is hazardous and would not be able to qualify for elementary neutralization exemption if you would “neutralize” this waste in a tank or container before drying. Also, since this waste material does not fit the definition of a “sludge” as an input into a “sludge dryer,” it does not qualify for the “sludge dryer” exemption (note: since a sludge dryer is excluded from incineration, it is exempt from treatment permitting). Since the material is not treated as part of a wastewater treatment system under a direct discharge permit to surface waters or an indirect discharge permit to public sewer, it does NOT qualify for the wastewater treatment unit exemption. Lastly, the handling of this waste material does not, nor could not in our opinion, feasibly qualify for “totally enclosed treatment facility” exemption.

Based upon our regulatory experience, we would concur with your RCRA inspectors that this practice would require a hazardous waste treatment permit under existing regulations. In fact, we have instructed clients who perform electrocoating with lead-based material NOT to place waste paint material into the cure oven if the waste paint fails Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for lead, even if the “curing” of the waste paint “locked” up the lead so that it would pass the TCLP test for lead. R.E., in our opinion you have three practical choices. First, you can drum up this material and dispose it as hazardous waste off site by a permitted treatment/disposal facility. Second, if you have a wastewater pretreatment system with cyanide oxidation capabilities, treat the waste stream onsite and it becomes part of your filter press cake. Third, install a batch cyanide treatment system to treat this waste with its discharge to your existing wastewater pretreatment system or a new permitted discharge; with this option, it appears that you could dry the treated sludge, which would have an F006 hazardous waste designation (40CFR261.31) without a hazardous waste treatment permit.

I know this is not the answer you wanted to hear, especially since it is “common practice” in your area, but in our opinion, this “common practice” is not in compliance with hazardous waste regulations.


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