On September 30, 2020, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) adopted updates to its Dangerous Waste Regulations, Chapter 173-303 WAC. These updates go into effect on October 31, 2020.
The updated regulations set standards for safely managing dangerous wastes. Many of the updates involve further guidance for businesses in Washington who deal with hazardous waste materials. Some of the regulations were required updates to remain consistent with EPA regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Ecology also adopted several state-initiated amendments to its rules.
The main federal rules adopted under this update are:
- Management Standards for Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals and Amendments to the P075 Listing for Nicotine.
These updates apply to retail stores, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities, however, the rules do not apply to households.
These changes were made to make Washington State rules consistent with EPA regulations. Under the EPA, while concentrated nicotine is very toxic and subject to strict regulations, over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies with low concentrations of nicotine, including patches, gum, and lozenges, will no longer be managed as an acute hazardous waste.
- Safe Management of Recalled Airbags.
These rules apply to auto dealers, scrap recyclers, salvage yards, auto repair shops, and other small businesses that remove recalled airbags from vehicles and dispose of them.
Recalled airbags removed from vehicles are ignitable and reactive, making them extremely dangerous to handle. These rules allow for airbag waste collected to be exempt from dangerous waste regulations, as long as certain conditions are met, namely sending the waste to an airbag waste collection facility or to a RCRA permitted dangerous waste facility.
Ecology also adopted an update based on federal user fees for the electronic hazardous waste manifest system, including amendments to the manifest regulations.
The main state-initiated amendments include:
- Updating Biological Testing Methods for the Designation of Dangerous Waste.
Previously, biological testing in Washington State allowed for two types of testing: the static fish acute toxicity test and the acute oral rat toxicity test. Ecology has determined that the rat toxicity test is obsolete and have removed it from the regulations.
Instead, the static fish acute toxicity test, which has been in use for over 40 years to determine whether solid waste is a dangerous waste under state regulations based on toxicity. This test does not relate to human health criteria. Updates to the regulations will allow the fish toxicity test procedures to be more efficient for labs testing these potentially dangerous wastes.
Ecology also made other clarifications and corrections to the rules, which can be viewed here. In addition to the language of the rules, Ecology provides guidance on its regulations and rule interpretations.
Most notably, in June 2020, Ecology published an updated reference guide, which summarizes the requirements for each generator category under the Dangerous Waste Regulations. Hazardous waste handlers and small business owners in Washington should review all regulations carefully to ensure they are complying with all conditions and standards for hazardous waste, even if they believe they are operating under an exemption.