Regulations for disposal of chemical waste

Written by charles calmbacher
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Regulations for disposal of chemical waste
Disposal of chemical wastes must follow federal regulations. (Image by, courtesy of Matt Brown)

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates chemical waste disposal. State and local authorities may apply additional requirements regulating chemical disposal. Treatment and disposal requirements are based upon waste characteristics, disposal methods, and hazards posed to human health and the environment. Generators of chemical wastes are responsible for their proper management, storage, shipping, treatment and disposal.

Hazards Posed by Chemical Waste

The EPA Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) classifies most chemical wastes as solid wastes. Some process chemicals may be exempt from RCRA when released to a wastewater stream. Some chemical wastes may be disposed in a permitted solid waste landfill. Waste chemicals may be a hazardous waste if they are corrosive, ignitable, reactive, toxic or specifically listed by RCRA. Disposal of each of these classes of wastes is defined by the RCRA.

Waste Treatment and Disposal

RCRA requires that corrosive wastes be neutralised before release, ignitable wastes must be incinerated or made non-flammable, reactive wastes must be treated, and toxic wastes must be disposed in a manner that prevents their release to the environment. The release of chemicals to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) may be allowed if Clean Water Act standards are met and the operator of the POTW accepts the chemical.

Clean Water Act (CWA)

The Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates discharges to POTWs. Facilities discharging chemical wastes in their water must meet national pretreatment standards. The CWA and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulate these chemicals. These standards apply to existing and new sources of wastewater. State and local authorities operating the POTW may have additional requirements that are more stringent than EPA regulations.


Pesticides must be registered by the manufacturer in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The EPA classifies these materials for "general use" or "restricted use." General use compounds can be applied by anyone. Restricted use chemicals must be applied by a certified applicator. FIFRA regulates the disposal of restricted use pesticides, fungicides and rodenticides.

Department of Transportation

Chemical waste must have proper packaging, marking, labelling and placarding to comply with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hazardous material transportation regulations. Chemical wastes must be accompanied by proper shipping papers (manifests). Hazardous wastes must have a manifest that tracks waste from the generator to the treatment, storage or disposal facility. Each state may have special shipping requirements that exceed those of the DOT.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations also apply to management of chemical wastes. Workers that could be affected by chemical wastes must be informed of the hazards posed by those chemicals. The Hazard Communication standard applies. Personal protective equipment and material handling standards also apply.

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