DEEP: 1983 - Hazardous Waste Regulations Adopted

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Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years

Hazardous Waste Regulations Adopted
(1983)

Background

Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in 1976 to address the virtually unchecked and common mismanagement of industrial waste occurring at that time. The federal RCRA regulations went into effect in 1980, and Connecticut became authorized to run the program here when it adopted its Hazardous Waste Management Regulations in 1983.

Prior to RCRA
After World War II, soaring domestic consumption and modern production methods and chemicals led to unprecedented growth in the volume and toxicity of industrial waste. All manner of dumping, stockpiling, improper treatment, and overall mismanagement of industrial waste was occurring at thousands of industrial sites across the country including hundreds of sites in Connecticut. Industrial waste was routinely dumped in solid waste landfills, open burned or discharged into waterways. Places like "Love Canal" (NY) and "Valley of the Drums" (KY) became household words because of the severe contamination of land, water and air resulting from these practices.

Goals and Core of RCRA
The primary goals of RCRA are to:

  • Prevent the release of pollution through environmentally sound or safe waste management practices
  • Protect human health and the environment from the potential hazards of waste disposal
  • Conserve energy and natural resources
  • Reduce the amount of waste generated including hazardous waste

The core of the RCRA program is its comprehensive "cradle to grave" set of safe management regulations for all generators of hazardous waste, covering waste analysis, waste shipment tracking, container storage, self-inspection, employee training and emergency preparedness. RCRA also requires special permits for commercial and large scale handlers of hazardous waste.

Evolution of RCRA
Since the 1980s, RCRA has been amended numerous times. Major amendments include requirements for small quantity generators of hazardous waste, modified requirements for hazardous wastes which are recycled, elimination of land disposal of hazardous wastes, management of used oil, restrictions on the import and export of hazardous waste, and streamlined requirements for universal wastes such as batteries, pesticides, mercury containing lighting and electronic waste.

As RCRA evolved at the federal level, the DEP tailored the program for Connecticut by adopting requirements that reflected the state’s population density, reliance on groundwater as a drinking water resource and the legacy of contaminated sites caused by the historic disposal of hazardous waste. There are thousands of sites in Connecticut known to have been impacted by historic mismanagement of hazardous waste.

RCRA Today in Connecticut
Connecticut is currently a national leader and innovator with its RCRA program. The state is recognized for its proactive and progressive approach for regulating hazardous waste and thereby ensuring these wastes are safely and properly managed . During a 2002 update, Connecticut became the first state to address the legacy of historic waste mismanagement by adopting a single set of site clean-up requirements that consolidates both federal and state standards. These requirements received legal approval from the EPA and in 2004 the Department won a national EPA innovation award.

This one-stop ‘Corrective Action’ program" streamlines the clean-up process at sites that have treated, stored or disposed of hazardous waste at their facility and speeds up the return of these contaminated sites to productive use. EPA has also recognized the Department’s suite of institutional controls developed to ensure the future stewardship of such sites The Department received a second EPA award in 2008 for development of the stewardship permit which has proven to be an important tool to foster clean-up and redevelopment of contaminated sites. A stewardship permit simplifies the complex and long-term obligations for investigation and remediation of contaminated sites by creating a legally enforceable document that consolidates, documents and assigns the clean-up requirements.

Connecticut is also a leader in compliance and technical assistance to the regulated community. Connecticut was one of the first states to establish a dedicated RCRA compliance assistance program including the development of extensive guidance documents, establishment of a toll-free assistance telephone help-line, and availability of on-site compliance audits. Most recently the Department formed its Hazardous Waste Advisory Committee. The Committee is a partnership of hazardous waste experts from the Department, Connecticut businesses, environmental consultants, law firms and academic institutions working to "LEAN" the RCRA program in Connecticut, and promote and sustain safe waste management through outreach to the regulated community.

 
More Information

  • COMPASS: Take advantage of DEP’s toll free hotline (888) 424-4193 for general compliance assistance information as well as offers on-site voluntary compliance audits to operators of new or expanding businesses.
  • Make Pollution Prevention practices as much a part of your business operations as pollution control. Many businesses, large and small, can save money, operate more efficiently and protect the environment. Some examples of P2 practices are:
    • Switching to less hazardous materials;
    • Changing the production process to improve efficiency and reduce toxic substances;
    • Installing more efficient equipment to produce less waste and use less energy;
    • Redesigning products to reduce certain raw materials in products or packaging.
  • Join the Hazardous Waste Advisory Committee (HWAC) and help the Department implement priority recommendations and training; promote communication and information sharing between the Department and regulated community; identify emerging issues and propose solutions; continue assessment of the department’s hazardous waste program and ways to improve our work. HWAC membership is open to the public, and meetings are held three times per year. See Hazardous Waste Advisory Committee Information and Schedule for more information.