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Hazardous Waste Rulemaking - Solvent-Contaminated Wipes Rule

The July 31, 2013 Conditional Exclusions for Solvent Contaminated Wipes Rule revises the definition of solid waste to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes that are cleaned and reused and revises the definition of hazardous waste to conditionally exclude solvent-contaminated wipes that are disposed. The purpose of this final rule is to provide a consistent regulatory framework that is appropriate to the level of risk posed by solvent-contaminated wipes in a way that maintains protection of human health and the environment, while reducing the overall compliance costs for industry, many of which are small businesses.

DEC currently has a policy that encourages reuse of industrial rags and soiled clothing through the use of Policy DSW-HW-03-09, "Regulatory Status of Laundered Industrial Rags and Soiled Clothing." The State is mandated by Environmental Conservation Law 27-0900 to adopt regulations at least as stringent as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hazardous waste regulations. Also, as an authorized state for the management of the hazardous waste management program in lieu of EPA, the State must adopt regulations at least as stringent as EPA's hazardous waste regulations. Since the state policy is less stringent in several ways than the Solvent Contaminated Wipes Rule, the DEC must either rescind or revise the policy, or promulgate regulations.

The EPA Wipes Rule is more stringent than current state policy in the following areas:

  • The Wipes Rule does not allow clothing to qualify.
  • The Wipes Rule does not apply to wipes that exhibit a characteristic (except ignitability) or that contain a non-solvent listed hazardous waste.
  • The Wipes Rule requires the laundry facility to keep received wipes in closed containers that are "able to contain free liquids" (unless being processed).
  • The Wipes Rule requires laundries to remove free liquid prior to laundering and manage it as hazardous waste.
  • The Wipes Rule requires "Excluded Solvent-Contaminated Wipes" labels;
  • The Wipes Rule requires the laundry's discharge to be Clean Water Act regulated.
  • The Wipes Rule has several conditional requirements associated with their 180 day exclusion for generators. (DEC does not have any because generators are required to manage the wipes as ordinary hazardous waste prior to laundry pickup.)

New York State's policy is more stringent than EPA's Wipes Rule in the following areas:

  • DEC's policy does not have an exclusion for wipes that will be landfilled or combusted;
  • DEC requires wipes to be managed as ordinary hazardous waste until loaded onto the laundry truck or laundered on-site, but EPA excludes them for 180 days if certain conditions are met;
  • DEC explicitly requires the use of DOT-compliant containers, but EPA rule only states that the containers be closed and non-leaking. However, EPA acknowledges that USDOT requirements must also be met; and
  • DEC only allows "incidental amounts" of solvent to qualify, but EPA has no such restriction.

Options that DEC is exploring:

  • DEC could rescind current State policy, removing the laundering and reuse option.
  • Alternately, DEC could adopt only the federal provisions that are more stringent than current state policy, while adopting the more stringent requirements of the state policy.
  • DEC could adopt only the reuse exclusion of the Wipes Rule, and could choose not to adopt the disposal exclusion.
  • DEC could adopt the entire wipes rule, including the conditional exclusion for disposal if DEC determines that the rule contains sufficient safeguards to protect human health and the environment. Impacts of the disposal option on municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill and combustion operations should also be evaluated.

Comments and supporting data on impacts of these alternatives are being sought. as well as information on the following concerns:

  • EPA's conditional exclusion for disposal contains sufficient safeguards to protect human health and the environment. Impacts of the disposal option on municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill and combustion operations should also be evaluated.
  • Adoption of the Wipes rule may impact MSW landfills and combustion facilities. The rule contains a conditional exclusion for disposal of solvent-contaminated wipes to MSW landfills and combustion facilities. While the rule does not impose any specific requirements on MSW facilities, the facilities are likely to receive more of this type of waste. Furthermore, liquid solvents separated during transport to the MSW facility are required to be drained and managed as hazardous waste prior to disposal at the MSW facility, thus making the MSW facility generators of hazardous waste. This places a new regulatory burden on the MSW facility. During the early public outreach period, the goal is to obtain a better idea of the possible impacts and the increased costs to the local governments that run the MSW facilities.
  • Adoption of the Wipes rule may also affect POTWs. They may either receive more solvent loading, which they may not be designed to bear, or may need to expend time updating industrial user permits for laundries.
  • DEC has heard that some commercial printers to intentionally absorb large quantities of "press wash" solvent into multiple wipes and disposing of those solvent-soaked wipes in municipal landfills. The federal rule currently has no prohibition against this practice.