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Hazardous Waste

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According to federal and Indiana statutes the term "hazardous waste" means a solid waste, or combination of solid waste that, because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics may:

  • cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or
  • pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.

Hazardous wastes come in many forms. They can be liquid, solids, semisolid, or contained gases. They can be manufacturing process byproducts, sludges or spent materials or simply discarded products. Whatever their form, proper management is essential to protect human health and the environment. In 1976 congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Subtitle C of this act directed the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to develop comprehensive, cradle to grave management standards for hazardous waste.

Under the broad statutory definition, the universe of potential hazardous waste is extremely large and diverse. As a result, Congress directed the U.S. EPA to develop regulations to specifically define the universe of hazardous waste for regulatory purposes under RCRA. The U.S. EPA developed four defining characteristics of hazardous waste and four lists of specific hazardous wastes. If a waste meets the definition of solid waste, and has not been excluded by rule from the definition of hazardous waste, it is considered a hazardous waste if:

  • It is included on one of the four lists of hazardous waste found in the regulations (i.e., listed waste), or;
  • It exhibits one of the four defined hazardous waste characteristics of ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, toxicity (i.e., characteristic waste).

These lists and definitions are found in the federal regulations at 40 CFR Part 261. These definitions and lists are also adopted by reference in Indiana's hazardous waste rules at 329 IAC 3.1-6.

Listed Waste

Some wastes are identified in the rules as hazardous waste by simply listing them. A waste is listed because it has been shown to be harmful to human health and the environment when not properly managed. The regulations list over 400 hazardous wastes. These lists are organized into three categories:

  • Source-specific wastes
    • This list includes certain waste from specific industries such as petroleum refining, pesticide manufacturing, or iron and steel.
  • Non-specific source waste
    • This list identifies waste commonly generated by a wide variety of manufacturing and industrial processes.
  • Commercial chemical products
    • This list includes specific commercial chemical products that are hazardous waste when discarded unused.

Characteristic Waste

A waste is hazardous if it exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Ignitability
    • Ignitable waste can create fires under certain conditions.
  • Corrosivity
    • Corrosive wastes are acids or bases that are capable of corroding metal storage tanks or containers which may result in release of the material, or may injure persons who come in contact with it.
  • Reactivity
    • Reactive wastes are unstable under normal conditions. They can cause explosions, or release toxic fumes, gases, or vapors when mixed with water.
  • Toxicity
    • Toxic wastes are harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed. When toxic wastes are disposed on land, contaminates may leach from the waste and pollute ground water or surface waters. Toxicity characteristic wastes are identified by concentration levels of contaminates that may be harmful to human health or the environment. This characteristic only identifies wastes which contain certain specified contaminants. Other toxic wastes are identified by listing them in the regulations.

IDEM's Hazardous Waste Management Program

IDEM has been authorized by the U.S. EPA to implement the majority of the federal RCRA Subtitle C hazardous waste management program in Indiana. Indiana's hazardous waste management rules are codified at 329 IAC 3.1. Indiana has adopted most of the federal hazardous waste management standards codified federally at 40 CFR Parts 260-270, and 273. Exceptions and additions to the federal rules are specifically noted in the state's hazardous waste management rules.

Some waste commonly considered hazardous, such as PCB's, infectious waste, and asbestos, are regulated under rules specifically tailored to those waste rather than the hazardous waste rules referenced above. Used oils may be regulated under the hazardous waste rules when disposed, but are subject to another set of rules when recycled.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Health also have rules that cover certain types of waste that are hazardous if improperly managed. For example, the management of infectious waste at medical institutions is under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Department of Health. Certain mining and oil exploration waste is under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. IDEM works closely with these other state agencies to coordinate our activities.

Hazardous Waste Management Options

The best management option for hazardous waste is to eliminate or minimize the generation of hazardous waste to begin with. Where hazardous waste generation can not be avoided, recycling is preferred to treatment and disposal. OLQ and the IDEM's Office of Compliance Support work together to further these goals of pollution prevention, waste minimization, and recycling.

Hazardous Waste Management Facilities

Hazardous waste management facilities receive hazardous waste for treatment, storage or disposal. These facilities are often referred to as treatment, storage, and disposal facilities or TSDF’s.

  • Treatment facilities use various processes (such as incineration) to alter the character or composition of hazardous wastes.
  • Storage facilities temporarily hold hazardous wastes until they are treated or disposed of.
  • Disposal facilities permanently contain hazardous wastes. The most common type of disposal facility is a landfill.

Hazardous Waste Permits

Any facility which treats, stores or disposes of hazardous waste in the State of Indiana is required to obtain a hazardous waste permit. A hazardous waste permit is a legally binding document that establishes the waste management activities that a facility can conduct and the conditions under which it can conduct them. The permit outlines facility design, process information, emergency plans, and employee training plans. The IDEM has the authority to issue or deny permits, and is responsible for monitoring the facility to ensure that it is complying with the conditions in the permit.

All facilities that currently or plan to treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste must obtain a hazardous waste permit. There are certain situations where a company is not required to obtain a hazardous waste permit.

  • Businesses that generate hazardous waste and transport it off-site without storing it for long periods of time do not need a hazardous waste permit.
  • Businesses that transport hazardous waste do not need a hazardous waste permit.
  • Under certain circumstances, on-site treatment by the generator of wastes, if done in tanks or containers.

Hazardous Waste Permit Section

The Hazardous Waste Permit Section oversees the implementation of the hazardous waste permit program, including the closure of TSDF’s which had, or should have had a permit. In addition, any hazardous waste facility which is issued a permit, should have had a permit or operated as a TSDF under interim status, is subject to corrective action requirements. Corrective action is the means by which entire facilities are evaluated for the presence of releases of hazardous wastes or hazardous constituents and, if necessary, are cleaned up.

Corrective action can be initiated through either a permit, if applicable, or an order under Indiana Code 13-22-13. If there has been comingling of contaminants from a hazardous waste management unit and a Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) and/or Area of Contamination (AOC), IDEM may allow the facility to close the hazardous waste management units at the same time it is addressing releases from the SWMU or AOC. Under this situation, the facility can request to complete closure of the hazardous waste management unit through the RCRA Corrective Action process.

The RCRA Corrective Action process consists of five key elements:

  • Potential source identification,
  • Release assessment,
  • Release investigation,
  • Evaluation and selection of an appropriate remediation technology or technologies, and
  • Remediation of the release(s).

Not all five elements need to be performed at all facilities. However, each facility subject to corrective action will be evaluated for its potential to release hazardous constituents. If the potential exists, the facility must perform a release assessment. The decision to proceed to subsequent elements depends on the level and type of hazardous constituent present. In order to achieve a “Corrective Action Complete Determination” for the facility, it must be demonstrated that either hazardous constituent levels do not exceed background levels or EQLs or that hazardous constituents do not pose unacceptable risks to human health or the environment. This determination can be performed either after the release assessment or the release investigation, or upon completion of remediation activities.

For a complete listing of definitions and specific information on the closure and corrective action processes, and corrective action completion determinations, please refer to Chapter 2 of the RISC User Guide.

RCRA ID Numbers, Hazardous Waste Reporting, Manifests and Fees

The Hazardous Waste Group supports the reporting and recordkeeping standards outlined in State and Federal Regulations. The applicable regulations are 40 CFR 262, 263, 264, and 265 and 329 IAC 3.1. This group also provides data quality services to the hazardous waste program staff to meet their tracking and planning needs.

A variety of guidance, policy, interpretations and related compliance assistance information can be found on the Hazardous Waste Resources page.

For regulatory questions:
Hazardous Waste Compliance Section
Phone: (317) 234-6951 or (800) 451-6027
FAX: (317) 234-0428