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How Episodic Generation Works

01 Dec
Episodic Generation

Environment

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided generators of hazardous waste some options for managing unanticipated waste events and large-scale cleanouts that have not be acceptable in the past. Under the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvement Rule, episodic generation allows small quantity generators (SQGs) and very small quantity generators (VSQGs) of hazardous waste to maintain their generator status, even if they have an occurrence of waste generation that would normally push them into a higher generator status.

It is a fairly straightforward concept, in theory, that allows VSQGs and SQGs the flexibility to have one planned (e.g., regular maintenance, tank cleanouts, short-term projects, removal of excess chemical inventory, or chemical cleanouts) or unplanned (e.g., production process upsets, product recalls, accidental spills, acts of nature) event per year that creates an increase in the generation of hazardous wastes that exceeds quantity limits for the generator’s usual status.

If—or when—an episodic generation event occurs, there are very specific requirements that must be followed. KTL has assisted many companies through this process with great success, resulting in minimized risk, less threat of negative inspection results, and overall cleaner facilities. The case study below walks through an actual unplanned event and how the facility responded to maintain compliance with its SQG status.

Case Study: Episodic Generation Event

An Iowa company has a printing process that generates contaminated (used) solvent when it cleans its press and changes ink colors. Because the company generates more than 220 pounds (100 kilograms) but less than 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of hazardous waste per month, it is considered an SQG.

The company uses new and recycled solvent to formulate their inks for printing and to clean the press between printing runs. A distillation unit onsite is used to process used solvent for re-use in the processes.

Processing Breakdowns

During the first week of August, the company experienced two processing breakdowns that resulted in the unplanned generation of large quantities of hazardous waste:

  1. A piece of production equipment malfunctioned and contaminated all the ink in the facility and the press with microscopic ceramic fragments.
  2. Within the same week, the distillation unit had a thermocouple malfunction, and the used solvent began to accumulate.

These dual challenges resulted in a large generation event of excess contaminated waste ink and used solvent. The facility surpassed the SQG hazardous waste threshold quantities. An event such as this falls under the category of an unplanned episodic generation event. The company determined it needed to conduct an episodic generation cleanup event and set a goal of disposing of all hazardous waste by the end of August.

Steps to Compliance

As a first step, the company notified the EPA by phone within 72 hours of the event. The company also completed the initial notification form required by EPA requesting a one-time episodic event that would increase their generator status to LQG for the month and submitted it. Then, they began the coordination for disposal with the disposal facility and the transporter.

The facility disposed of all contaminated ink and solvent generated the first week of August by August 27 (within the 60-day requirement). During this time, the presses were flushed, the distillation unit was repaired, the facility began production, and the solvent recycling process resumed.

After all waste was disposed from the property, the company completed the final notification form for the EPA and returned to SQG generation levels by September 1. All manifests, land disposal notifications, and documentation are retained in an episodic generation file onsite. Additionally, KTL assisted in the development of a comprehensive overview document that explained all aspects of the episodic event so any future inspections would be completed with little question or concern about the event.

Requirements

An event such as the one described in this case study is a prime example of an unplanned episodic generation event. Accordingly, the facility was required to respond. Among the most significant requirements the facility had to satisfy to maintain its SQG status include:

  • Notifying the EPA within 72 hours after an unplanned event (or at least 30 days before a planned event) using EPA Form 8700-12.
  • Obtaining an EPA ID number (if the generator does not already have one) BEFORE initiating the shipment of generated waste.
  • Completing the event and shipping the episodic waste off site within 60 days of starting the event, whether planned or unplanned, using a hazardous waste manifest, hazardous waste transporter, and RCRA-designated facility.
  • Completing and maintaining records onsite for three years after the completion date of the episodic event.

Additional Details

It is important to note some additional details about episodic generation that are important for VSQGs and SQGs to know and understand:

  • Typically, a generator is only allowed to have one episodic event per year, whether planned or unplanned; however, the generator may petition the EPA or state for a second event, provided the second event is the opposite type (i.e., planned vs. unplanned). The petition must include:
    • Reason for and nature of the event
    • Estimated amount of hazardous waste being managed
    • How the hazardous waste will be managed
    • Estimated length of time needed to complete the management, not to exceed 60 days
    • Information regarding the previous episodic event (e.g., nature of the event, planned or unplanned, how the generator complied)
  • An episodic event cannot last more than 60 days beginning on the first day episodic hazardous waste is generated and concluding on the day the hazardous waste is removed from the generator’s site. If the hazardous waste is not off site within 60 days, then it must be counted toward the generator’s monthly generation levels.
  • The following are NOT considered episodic events and would impact overall generator status:
    • Increased waste related to increased production
    • An accident or spill due to operator error, abuse, or lack of maintenance (i.e., irresponsible management of hazardous waste/materials)
    • Any activity that is part of the normal course of business
    • Discovering at the end of the month that the monthly generation thresholds have been exceeded
  • Short-term generation differs from episodic generation. A short-term generator is an entity that does not normally generate hazardous waste but has a one-time, non-recurring, temporary event (typically less than 90 days) unrelated to normal operational activities. Short-term generators are not relieved of any regulatory requirements tied to the volume of hazardous waste generated and must meet all generator requirements for the level of generator (i.e., notification, manifesting, reporting, contingency planning, and training).

The episodic waste provision allows SQGs and VSQGs to avoid the increased burden of a higher generator status when generating episodic waste—provided it is properly managed. In the past, this wasn’t an option, unless states provided special exception. Now it is part of EPA’s objective to provide greater flexibility in how hazardous waste is managed through the Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. If your company is interested in exploring a plant-wide chemical cleanup or experiences a production challenge that results in the generation of hazardous waste at a rate that is higher than your generator status allows, KTL can provide the expertise necessary to guide you through the episodic generation process. 

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