Hindsight in 2020: More EPA Regulations on the Horizon

Toxic Release Inventory Reporting

December 2019 was a busy month for environmental regulatory changes. On December 20, 2019 the signed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020 added certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the list of chemicals subject to annual Toxic Release Inventory (Form R) reporting. PFAS are a group of man-made compounds that resist degradation in the environment. The two most studied PFAS include perfluorooctanoic acid (POFA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). The official list of PFAS substances added to the Form R by the NDAA was released on January 17, 2020. PFAS has been widely used around the globe in a variety of industries and products. Frequently PFAS is found in food packaging, commercial household products, production facilities, and drinking water. In 2019, multiple military bases throughout the United States made headlines when they were determined to have drinking water contamination with PFAS from prior firefighting foam use. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), chronic exposure to PFAS through ingestion or inhalation can lead to adverse health outcomes including:

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Impaired immune system
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Impaired hormonal regulation
  • Impaired growth in children

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the opening of a 60-day public comment period to gather information regarding PFAS hazard assessments shown to meet Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) Section 313 listing criteria. Increased commerce and hazard information will be used to add specific PFAS to the Form R toxic chemical list and establish lower reporting thresholds since PFAS has shown environmental persistence and bioaccumulation potential.  These compounds could be added to the list of chemicals of special concern that will lower the reporting threshold like how persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) chemicals have an established reporting threshold of 100 pounds. The focus of PFAS exposure regulations include industrial facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use PFAS.

Facilities with Form R industry sections were notified to begin tracking and collecting data on PFAS chemicals for 2020 in late December 2019. With the additional chemical list to be released, it is important that reporting facilities understand if any processes or products contain PFAS substances to ensure accurate reporting for reporting year 2020. The EPA is accepting comments until February 3, 2020.

Aerosol Cans as Universal Waste

On to more exciting news! On December 9, 2019, the EPA published the final rule for the addition of aerosol cans to the list of universal wastes. This rule will become effective on February 7, 2020. Under the new rule, intact aerosol cans may be disposed of as universal waste as regulations become streamlined. The proposed changes to the universal waste regulation follow many of the state programs found in the five states that already have aerosol cans under universal waste: California, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, and Utah. Many facilities that currently handle their aerosol can waste as hazardous waste may benefit from the new regulation with simpler waste management requirements including consolidation of cans at one central location and one set of management standards including accumulation time frames, labeling, marking, training and off-site shipment requirements. The hope of the streamlined regulation is to increase recycling of aerosol cans and decrease the number of cans sent to the landfills. The rule change also could potentially lower facility hazardous generation rates if aerosol cans or their contents are currently sent off-site as hazardous waste. The rule may be considered less stringent than some state regulations, therefore facilities should verify their state has taken on this new rule.

Facilities that choose to continue to puncture their aerosol cans for disposal will see increased requirements to ensure the residual contents are not exposed to the environment. If you plan to continue to puncture your aerosol cans, you may want to consider the following new additional requirements:

  • Puncture devices must be specifically designed to safety puncture cans
  • Written procedures for puncturing and draining cans including operation and maintenance of device
  • Maintenance of manufacturer specifications and directions on site
  • Employee training on puncturing procedures
  • Drained contents are subject to 40 CFR 262.11 hazardous waste determinations
  • Written spill response procedures

For more information on upcoming changes to Toxic Release Inventory (Form R) reporting and universal waste handling, sign up to attend the webinar on March 4, 2020. If you need assistance in environmental compliance requirements, reach out to August Mack for assistance.

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