Understanding Complex Remediation Waste Issues – Part 2

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) has been in place for several years and still creates many complex questions when relating to contaminated environmental media on remediation projects. Contaminated media can be generated through:

  • Excavation,
  • Investigations (with investigation derived wastes),
  • In-situ soil or groundwater treatment producing waste residuals, and
  • Other waste generating or construction activities.
  • Typical questions arise from complex issues relating to:
  • (1) Generator waste determinations for contaminated media,
  • (2) Unknown source wastes,
  • (3) Contained in listed wastes,
  • (4) Exempt/Excluded wastes, and
  • (5) Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) application.

*Section 3, 4, and 5 from above are each discussed below and sections 1 and 2 are presented in “Understanding Complex Remediation Waste Issues – Part 1” in the October newsletter.

Contained in Wastes

USEPA, initially required that mixtures of listed hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste be managed as listed hazardous waste.  Later, USEPA determined that when listed hazardous wastes mixed with media and no longer contained listed hazardous waste, the resulting waste could exit RCRA and not be considered listed hazardous waste. This exiting of RCRA is a Contained-In-Determination (CID). EPA hasn’t created any default numerical standards CIDs.  The CID is referenced in the USEPA Document entitled “Management of Remediation Wastes Under RCRA,” EPA530-F-98-026.

Excavation and off-site disposal is a viable technique for removal of contaminated media. During RCRA’s early years and prior to LDR regulations, contaminated media that contained even minute levels (far less than today’s LDR levels) of listed hazardous waste was either (1) left in place or (2) if removed, was managed as listed hazardous waste. Today, there are situations where media containing listed hazardous wastes can exit RCRA hazardous waste regulation via the CID. Further, USEPA has granted some states authority to administer a program that allows media to exit RCRA through the CID. The RCRA exiting criteria is specific and requires regulatory written concurrence.  A generator cannot self-certify a CID. It cannot be documented and maintained without regulatory concurrence. Indiana for example has USEPA approval to certify CIDs and these area easily pre-determined by the generator via Indiana’s RISC program protocols and exit levels. In Indiana, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) approval requires:

  • (1) Contaminant levels below those indicated in a default value lookup table,
  • (2) Being characteristically non-hazardous,
  • (3) Meeting LDR requirements under certain situations, and
  • (4) Having IDEM regulatory concurrence.

Once a contained-in-determination is provided, the soil must be managed as a solid waste or be relocated onsite once it is “generated.” For media located in states that don’t have USEPA CID certification approval, generators would need to apply to USEPA for CIDs. USEPA CIDs are site specific. A waste which has minimal levels of listed contaminants (less than LDR or IDEM CID Levels) but does not have a written CID issued by USEPA or an authorized state will need to manage the media as listed hazardous waste. It is important to note that the CID requirements do not apply to characteristic wastes.

Exempt/Excluded Wastes

Exempt/Excluded wastes are wastes that if the exemption or exclusion did not exist, would meet the definition of hazardous waste. These wastes, however, are not required to be managed as solid wastes/RCRA hazardous wastes due to the regulatory exemption or exclusion. These wastes are important to understand for two reasons:

  • (1) The waste may be perceived to be hazardous, but in actuality is not, and
  • (2) The exemption or exclusion may be misunderstood, misread or misinterpreted.

The exclusion provided for petroleum contaminated media (40 CFR 261.4) is a good example. The exclusion indicates “(10) Petroleum contaminated media and debris that fail the test for the Toxicity Characteristic of 261.24 (Hazardous Waste Codes D018-D043) and are subject to the corrective action regulations under part 280 of this chapter.” According to the exclusion the following would be necessary:

  • (1) The waste would only exceed the TCLP regulatory thresholds for USEPA waste codes D018-D043. If the waste exhibited ignitability (D001) or exceed the TCLP regulatory threshold for lead (D008), the media may not be considered for the exclusion.
  • (2) If the petroleum contamination was the result of an above ground storage tank or tanker truck release (not subject to part 280), the media may not be considered for the exclusion.

It is important to understand the exemptions and exclusions to ensure proper contaminated media management during remediation projects.

LDR Application

LDR remains an item that routinely creates confusion during soil removal projects.  LDR basically establishes the level of contaminants that can be disposed in a land disposal facility. LDR has created confusion for both TCLP wastes and listed hazardous wastes. Each is discussed below.

TCLP waste generators understood that exceeding TCLP thresholds put them in the hazardous waste management program. What they didn’t understand is why much lower numbers were required to exit. For example, the TCLP regulatory threshlold for lead is 5.0 mg/L. Less than 5.0 mg/L remains non-hazardous. The LDR is 0.75 mg/L. The soil treatment standard is 10 times the Universal Treatment Standard (10 x 0.75 = 7.5) or a 90% reduction.  So if the waste never enters RCRA hazardous waste regulation at less than 5.0 mg/L, it may be disposed in a subtitle D land disposal site without treatment. But at or above 5.0 mg/L, it must be (1) treated to less than 7.5 mg/L by TCLP at a hazardous waste treatment facility. Additionally, any other Underlying Hazardous Constituents must be identified and treated prior to land disposal. For ignitable, reactive, or corrosive wastes, the underlying reason for the code must be removed.

For listed wastes, this concept becomes more daunting for some. A generator cannot merely indicate a listing without knowing the concentrations of the listed waste. Listed hazardous waste residual disposal in a subtitle C land disposal site requires that the media meet LDR. LDR for contaminated soil is 10 times the numerical values presented in 40 CFR 268 or 90% reduction in concentration. Soil containing constituents less than 10 times the LDR levels can be directly land disposed in a subtitle C facility without further treatment. Soil containing greater than 10 times LDR will require treatment prior to subtitle C land disposal. Obviously, it becomes important to understand the LDR associated with each chemical in the contaminated media for proper and efficient media disposal.


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