In 2-3 pages, review and do a full study. This assignment will come from chapter 2 on page 2.7. Review the case named “Electroplater Who Claims He Has No Hazardous Waste”. In this study, briefly evaluate the information and your evaluation of the case. In addition, research the Internet and locate an incident that has a related occurrence to this incident. Please discuss and describe the entire case. Be sure to correctly cite all information and in accordance with APA formatting.
2.7 CASE STUDIES
In the following case study, an owner/operator learns that improper waste identification can be costly, but for a surprising reason. The reader’s first thought might be that improper identification is costly because regulators might discover that a company is not claiming its waste is hazardous. The following case study has an interesting twist, when one company learns that they are needlessly paying hazardous waste generation fees and disposal costs for wastes that are not hazardous.
Improper Waste Identification Can be Costly
An inspector visited a company that designed and produced specialty mechanical machine parts. When the inspector introduced himself and explained his purpose, the company representative was hesitant and uncooperative, asking if the inspector had a search warrant. After the inspector explained his regulatory authority, and that if he needed a warrant he could get one quickly, the facility representative consented to the inspection. The company had relied on a waste management broker/transporter firm to do their hazardous waste identifications, and some of the determinations were not correct. Several of the wastes that were identified by the broker as being hazardous wastes were, in fact, not hazardous wastes, and a few other wastes that were identified as nonhazardous wastes were actually hazardous wastes.
Based on these erroneous determinations, the company listed itself as a Large Quantity Generator and was spending large amounts of money on generator annual reports, generator fees, and excess hazardous waste disposal costs, not to mention the extra time spent learning and complying with those rules. After analyzing the waste streams and interviewing the facility manager, the inspector informed the company that their generation rate made them only a Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator, with greatly reduced regulatory and financial requirements. This correction to the waste determinations saved the company thousands of dollars per year.
The inspector explained to the company representative that his company was ultimately responsible for making waste determinations, and that the waste broker/transporter that had given him incorrect information had no liability. When the inspector finished explaining the errors and the serious consequences of improper identification, he showed the facility representative how the incorrect waste determinations were costing him thousands of dollars every year, as the broker/transporter was charging his company hazardous waste prices for solid waste disposal. Because it was their first offense, the inspector issued the company a warning letter and gave them 30 days to correct the mistakes. The company immediately corrected the mistakes and fired their waste broker/transporter. The company representative was very grateful for the inspection, and called the inspector several times after that to make sure he properly identified new waste streams. He told the inspector that if he had known how easy it was to get assistance on complying with the hazardous waste rules, he would never have relied on the waste broker/transporter for his waste management advice.
Regulatory offices take many anonymous calls from companies with hazardous waste questions, and are generally pleased when they are called. These offices give answers that help reduce violations and make the inspectors’ jobs easier and more pleasant.
In the next case study, we find out that companies are not legally obligated to notify anyone that they are going out of business, a problem that seems to occur with increasing frequency.
Company Leaves Town Without Warning
An inspector got an anonymous call on a Friday afternoon with the information that a large, local manufacturing company had just gone out of business. The management distributed paychecks that Friday, told all employees that the company was out of business, and told them not to bother showing up for work the following Monday.
The inspector arrived at the site that Friday afternoon to find the factory doors closed and the parking lot empty. The security guard was there and allowed the inspector access after the inspector presented his credentials and explained the purpose of the visit.
The owner had left the country with a large sum of money and was not expected back. The lower level managers had no idea the closing was going to happen, so there was little information about the status of the closing.
The facility had been used for the manufacture of lawn mowers and snow blowers for over 50 years and there were numerous parts, partially and fully assembled lawn mowers and snow blowers, machinery for shaping and cutting metal, oils, paints, and offices, as can be seen in Figure 2.4.
Image from book
Figure 2.4: Company leaves town without warning.
What kinds of hazardous wastes would be on site?
The manufacturing area would contain: paints, paint thinners, gasoline, inks, cutting oils, fluorescent lamps, acids and bases. The offices would contain used electronics, mercury containing equipment (thermostats and switches), fluorescent lamps, and inks.
If the owner has left the country and there is no person financially responsible or accountable, what can be done?
In this case, the outlook was bleak for environmental cleanup. There are no laws requiring businesses generating hazardous waste to have any financial surety or other mechanism if they decide to go out of business and abandon a site, provided the wastes are safely contained and there are no threats to the environment. Fortunately, in this case, the inspector discovered an oil spill from some open oil drums in the outdoor storage area of the facility. The inspector called in a petroleum spill, which alerted an emergency response. Under the authority of emergency response, the state was able to order an investigation, and the site was cleaned up by a company that had equipment stored on site.
There is a gap in the law in most states allowing hazardous waste generators to walk away from a facility without notifying the regulatory agency that the facility is being abandoned together with its contents, including hazardous wastes that had been properly stored and contained on site. If the wastes were stored and labeled properly, no hazardous waste storage violations would occur for up to 90 days. This is a long-standing challenge for waste regulators across the nation and can be solved only by legislation, which thus far has not been introduced.
In the next case study, we discover a businessman who simply refuses to acknowledge that he is generating hazardous waste. His insistence led to a host of problems for the business, the state regulatory agency, the local community, and, eventually, the federal government.
Electroplater Who Claims He Has No Hazardous Waste
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Many facilities have tried to be clever with the waste determinations, claiming there isn’t really a waste because they still have use for it, or might have a use for it someday.
In one such case, an inspector visited an electroplating company (see Figure 2.5) where the owner was already under investigation for other unrelated behavior. The inspector obtained a search warrant based on employee complaints about poor waste management practices and potential health and safety issues.
Upon arrival, and after waiting for a uniformed officer to serve the search warrant, the inspector entered the facility and found two major issues:
Several hundred containers of electroplating chemicals were scattered throughout a very old and crumbling six story building. The owner insisted that none of the containers were waste. He claimed that they were still good plating solutions, and that they were being saved for later use. Upon testing the containers, it turned out that virtually all of the “good” plating solutions were actually spent to a point where they would be virtually useless in the future. The owner was accumulating these containers in order to avoid the cost of proper disposal.
The facility was still conducting electroplating, with numerous health and safety issues, including a “green fog” of fumes throughout the building from the plating operation. The workers complained of irritating fumes and respiratory problems. In addition, there was a large plating tank divided into two parts by one steel plate, a cyanide solution was contained on one side and an acid bath on the other. Any mixture of the two solutions would have caused a release of deadly cyanide gas.
Image from book
Figure 2.5: Electroplater who claimed to have no hazardous waste.
The inspector immediately contacted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who immediately shut down the facility due to the imminent hazard associated with the tank containing acid and cyanide.
The owner claimed none of the containers contained waste. He stated that all of the containers contained valuable and useable plating solutions that he planned to use in the future. The sheer quantity of “product” was staggering, with hundreds of containers, some in very poor condition, scattered all over the six-story building.
To deal with the “product” that was actually waste, the federal government called the practice speculative accumulation and declared the entire property a hazardous waste cleanup site. The USEPA spent over $2 million securing the site and removing the containers. The building was demolished after the cleanup because it was deemed to be structurally unsound.
The case studies above give a few examples of the issues associated with the identification of hazardous waste. The hazardous waste regulations can be interpreted in many different ways, and the safest determination is one agreed to by the USEPA and the home state regulatory agency staff. Any company that makes an independent waste identification or relies on a waste broker or vendor is taking a risk that may cause problems and possible additional costs.