There are many different laws and regulations which govern the management of chemical waste at the Salisbury University. It should be remembered that any of the applicable laws and regulations can be the basis for a regulatory citation. The purchase and use of any hazardous chemical carries with it the responsibility to be aware of the regulations governing its use and disposal.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), also known as the "Solid Waste Disposal Act" was passed in 1976. This law empowered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the disposal of solid and hazardous waste in the United States. In Maryland, the enforcing agency is both the Maryland Department of the Environment and the United States EPA.
The main purpose of RCRA was to promote the protection of health and the environment and to conserve valuable materials and resources. RCRA established standards for the accumulation, transportation, storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste generated within our society. Additionally, with the advent of RCRA, the generator of a hazardous waste was now the legal owner of the waste from the moment it was identified as a hazardous waste to point where it is no longer classified as a hazardous waste, thus, the "cradle to grave" concept.
The Comprehensive Environmental Responsibility, Compensation and Liability Act, better known as the Superfund Act, was mandated in 1980, This was established to clean-up hazardous waste sites that pose a potential danger to the public. The most important effect of this law is the establishment of a liability system which makes the original generator of a waste responsible for that material forever. Under this law the EPA can require those deemed responsible to take action to clean up hazardous waste sites, or it can clean up the site itself and recoup the money and costs required in the clean up from the responsible parties.
In 1984, Congress passed the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments which reauthorizes RCRA. The main feature of this law is the land ban which mandates that all hazardous waste must be treated and made nonhazardous before disposal in landfill.
Until 1984, most academic institutions that generated hazardous wastes were exempt from many of the RCRA requirements for generators, because they generated less than 1,000 kg per month of hazardous waste. However, with the HSWA, that limit was lowered to 100 kg per month. As a result, almost all colleges and universities now fall under the regulations established by RCRA.
Regulations dealing with the disposal of waste in Maryland are a combination of local, state and federal requirements. Hazardous waste is defined as materials which are ignitable, reactive, corrosive, toxic, radioactive, or appears on a list of specific waste materials. It is a felony to knowingly and willfully dispose of material which meets these criteria in the normal trash or sewer.
In accordance with federal regulations, Maryland maintains a waste manifest system which tracks all hazardous waste generated in the state from the generator's site until it reaches its final disposal site. The manifest is uniform across the country, so it is possible to track waste anywhere in the United States.
Other RCRA regulations require that large quantity generators of hazardous waste maintain contingency plans for hazardous waste spills and inspect waste accumulation areas. Employees whose work generates hazardous waste must be trained in proper disposal procedures. In addition, generators must keep records of, and annually report to the USEPA and MDE, the amounts and types of waste generated. A special area of emphasis of these regulations is the development of a waste minimization program which is to reduce the amount of waste the generator produces.
All of the laws and regulations described above make compliance the responsibility of the employer. Ignorance of these laws and regulations is no defense against citations or fines. At the University, the user of a hazardous chemical is ultimately responsible for compliance with regulations applicable to a particular chemical. The Environmental Health and Safety department was established to assist the University community in compliance with these requirements.
The USEPA and MDE are authorized to seek civil and criminal penalties for RCRA violations. Educational institutions have not been excluded. Several universities have been found guilty of RCRA violations and have had to pay substantial penalties. The individuals guilty of RCRA violations can be personally brought to court and face mandatory penalties as well as imprisonment. One substantial penalty for violation of EPA regulations is that the institution and in consequence the faculty, staff and researchers may not receive federal funds. Due to these developments, Universities must ensure that staff, faculty and students are educated concerning waste management practices.
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