Construction Industry Compliance Assistance

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Hazardous Waste

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Wastes are classified as "hazardous" if they have certain dangerous properties (for instance, if they are flammable, corrosive, or toxic). Examples of hazardous wastes commonly generated at construction and demolition sites include asbestos, lead (e.g., in paint), mercury wastes, solvent/thinner, fuel, stains, unused paint, oil/lubricants, compressed gas cylinders, and unpunctured aerosol cans.

This page introduces federal regulations that determine what kinds of wastes are considered "hazardous wastes", and that specify how they must be handled.

Most states have enacted their own hazardous waste rules, which may vary from the federal regulations. Consult the Hazardous Waste State Resource Locator for state-specific information.


Hazardous Waste Determination. The importance of accurately making hazardous waste determinations cannot be overstated -- failing to correctly identify all hazardous waste is the most common violation of RCRA regulations. Plus, when determinations are not correctly made, there is an excellent chance that hazardous waste management rules are not being followed, which means additional violations and fines. For a step-by-step process, see CICA's Hazardous Waste Determination.

Generator Status. To regulate the over 800,000 hazardous waste generators (a facility/entity that creates hazardous waste as defined by the EPA see below) in the United States cost effectively, EPA established three sizes of generators (applicable to individual construction sites):

  • Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) who generate less than 100 kg of non-acute hazardous waste a month, less than 1 kg of acute hazardous waste a month and less than 100 kg of residues or contaminated soil, waste, and other debris from the spill cleanup of acute hazardous waste. Most construction, demolition, and renovation sites are considered VSQGs. [Important note: Not all states recognize the VSQG category. State generator categories can be different than the federal categories. Please see the differences in hazardous waste generator categories table.]

  • Small Quantity Generators (SQG) who generate between 100 kg and 1,000 kg of non-acute hazardous waste a month, less than 1 kg of acute hazardous waste a month, and less than 100 kg of spill residue from acute hazardous waste.

  • Large Quantity Generators (LQG) who generate 1,000 kg or more of non-acute hazardous waste a month, 1 kg or more of acute hazardous waste a month, and 100 kg or more of spill residue from acute hazardous waste.

Under federal regulations (varies by state), the VSQG is exempt from the regulation if it complies with the set of regulations described in 40 CFR 261.5. SQG must meet limited requirements in Part 262. These reduced requirements for SQGs are to ensure that while some tracking of and accountability for the waste is placed on the small quantity generator, the requirements are not so burdensome as to prevent compliance. An LQG, of course, must meet the full set of Part 262 requirements.

Please note that a one's generator status may change from month to month. A contractor can be a VSQG in January and a LQG in February. Since generators are required to comply with all applicable requirements according to their generator status, one should probably evaluate the risks associated with changing status on a month-to-month basis on one's environmental and legal liabilities.

EPA Identification Number. Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators (LQG) ONLY are required under the Federal Hazardous Waste program (and most state programs) to obtain an EPA ID number and use it when manifesting wastes off-site. Each construction site must receive its own unique EPA identification number. Typically, the prime contractor will obtain the EPA ID number and have overall responsibility for compliance. One can obtain an EPA ID number by calling your state environmental agency (see: RCRA State Resource Locator) or EPA Regional Office.

Quantity Limits for Hazardous Waste. Both very small quantity generators (VSQG) and small quantity generators (SQG) have limits on how much hazardous waste they can store at their facility at any one time. If they go above those limits, they need to comply with the requirements of the next higher generator category:

  • For non-acute hazardous waste, this limit is 1000 kg or 2,200 lbs for a VSQG and 6000 kg or 13,200 lbs for an SQG.

  • For acute hazardous waste, the limit is the same for both: 1 kg for an acute hazardous waste or 100 kg for spill residue from an acute hazardous waste.

An LQG can store as much hazardous waste as it wants on site. There is no quantity limitation.

Time Limits. The length of time that hazardous waste can be stored on-site varies depending on generator status:

  • There are no time limits placed on a VSQG for the storage of hazardous waste. [Although there is a limit on how much hazardous waste a very small quantity generator (VSQG) can accumulate on site, there is no limit on how long a VSQG can store that waste on-site as long as one remains below that limit (see discussion above).]

  • Small quantity generators (SQG) can only keep their waste on-site for 180 days or 270 days if their treatment, storage, and disposal facility is more than 270 miles away.

  • Large quantity generators (LQG) can only store their waste for 90 days without obtaining a permit as a storage facility.

Note that state rules may vary with respect to hazardous waste storage time limits. Check your state's rules using the Hazardous Waste State Resource Locator.

Storing Requirements. Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators (LQG) must comply with additional requirements when storing their hazardous waste. While recommended for very small quantity generators, they are not required.

There are two types of storage areas: Satellite Accumulation Areas and Main Hazardous Waste Storage Areas. A Satellite Accumulation Area is an area at or near the point of hazardous waste generation and under the control of the operator of the process generating the waste. The wastes are allowed to be temporarily stored for 3 days before being moved to the main hazardous waste storage area. A Main Hazardous Waste Storage Area can be anywhere at the facility and is where the facility stores their waste before being sent off-site for treatment, disposal, or recycling. There can also be more than one main storage area. The requirements for each storage area are listed below.

The requirements for satellite storage areas include:

  • Can accumulate up to 55 gallons of non-acute hazardous waste or one quart of acute hazardous waste

  • Required to date the containers when the above quantity limits are reached so that the generator can remove the hazardous waste to the main hazardous waste storage area or ship the wastes off-site within 3 days of reaching the above limits

  • Need to keep the containers closed except when adding or removing wastes; and

The Requirements for main waste storage areas include:

Emergency Planning. Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators (LQG) have specific requirements placed on them under RCRA so that they are prepared for emergencies involving hazardous waste. These requirements are recommended for very small quantity generators (VSQG) but not required.

Personnel Training. Under RCRA, an SQG must ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with the proper waste handling and emergency procedures relevant to their responsibilities. Large quantity generators (LQG), on the other hand, must have a formal personnel training program in place in accordance with the requirements in 40 CFR 265.16 and 40 CFR 262.34(a)(4). This requires initial training as well as annual reviews that teaches proper waste management and familiarizes them with procedures, equipment, and systems to effectively respond to emergencies. Please note that very small quantity generators (VSQG) are not legally required to train their employees on hazardous waste management and emergency procedures, but it is highly recommended.

Biennial Report. As for reporting, large quantity generators (LQG) only are required to submit a biennial report to their EPA regional office by March 1 of every even numbered year. This reporting requirement is intended to provide EPA with reliable national data on hazardous waste management. The report includes:

Hazardous Waste Minimization. Under RCRA, small quantity generators (SQG) must make a good faith effort to minimize waste generation and to select the best available waste management method that they can afford. Large quantity generators (LQG), on the other hand, are required to have a formal hazardous waste minimization program in place to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste generated to the degree economically practicable, and must select a currently available treatment, storage, or disposal method that minimizes present or future threats. very small quantity generators (VSQG) are exempt from this requirement.

Inspections. RCRA requires that SQGs and LQGs of hazardous waste inspect containers in storage (not in satellite accumulation areas) at least weekly for signs of leaks, corrosion, or other deterioration and record those inspections in a log. At a minimum, these records must include the date and time of inspection, the name of the inspector, a notation of the observations made, and the date and nature of any repairs or other remedial actions

Shipping Waste Off-Site. very small quantity generators (VSQG) are required to ensure delivery of their hazardous wastes to a RCRA treatment storage and disposal facility (TSDF), a state authorized solid waste facility, or a recycler. If a VSQG sends its wastes to any other facility, it will lose its exemption and must comply with the requirements for a small quantity generator (SQG). The key here is the term "ensure delivery". The fact that a VSQG can send their hazardous wastes to a municipal landfill does not mean they can throw those wastes in the trash. The wastes are at a minimum required to get to the destination intact. So, throwing fluorescent light bulbs in the trash will not be permitted since the odds of the bulbs getting to the landfill intact are small. One should check with one's state hazardous waste program on how they interpret the phrase "ensure delivery."

Small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators (LQG) must send their wastes to either a RCRA TSDF or a recycling facility. Their wastes cannot go to a municipal landfill. In addition, they must ensure that hazardous waste shipments are properly packaged, labeled, marked, and placarded to Department of Transportation regulations. This is usually done by the transporter. Furthermore, they must prepare hazardous waste manifests correctly which allow all parties involved in hazardous waste management (e.g., generators, transporters, TSDFs, EPA and state agencies) to track the movement of hazardous wastes from the point of generation to the point of ultimate treatment, storage, and disposal.

Hazardous Waste Manifest. A hazardous waste manifest must accompany all hazardous waste that is shipped off site. A hazardous waste manifest is a multipart form designed to track hazardous waste from generation to disposal. It will help you to track your waste during shipment and make sure it arrives at the proper destination. If you send waste to a recycling facility, you may be able to use a tolling agreement instead of a manifest. A tolling agreement is a "closed-loop" arrangement whereby a generator contracts with a recycling company to reclaim its hazardous waste and return it as a recycled product, thereby avoiding disposal. A copy of the contract must be kept on file for three years after the contract has ended.

For shipping waste, use the federal Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest, EPA Form 8700-22. Copies are available from some transporters, TSDs, and some commercial printers. Your state hazardous waste agency can refer you to manifest suppliers.

You must fill in all parts of a manifest (EPA has published instructions for completing Form 8700-22). Information requested includes name of transporter, name of the designated facility, your EPA ID number, and a description of the waste based on DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements, such as proper shipping name and hazard class. Call the DOT information line for more information on DOT waste description requirements.

The transporter signs the completed manifest when the shipment is accepted for transport. The facility operator at the designated TSDF also signs the form when the shipment is received and sends a copy of it back to you. You must keep this copy on file for three years. (It might be a good practice, however, to keep it for as long as you are in business.)

Any SQG that does not receive a signed copy of the manifest from the designated TSDF within 60 days of shipment must submit a legible copy of the manifest to the state or EPA regional office. This copy, known as an exception report, simply indicates that a signed copy was not received from the facility operator.


Biennial Report (SQGs and LQGs only). SQGs and LQGs who ship hazardous waste off-site to a treatment, storage, disposal (TSD) facility must prepare and submit a Biennial Report to the EPA Regional Administrator by March 1 of each even numbered year (2012, 2014, 2016, etc.). Use EPA Form 8700-13A/B for submitting the report, and include the following information:

Some states require have more frequent reporting requirements (e.g., annually). Find your state's rules using the Hazardous Waste State Resource Locator.

Exception Reporting (SQGs and LQGs only). Exception reports are part of the RCRA tracking system. After you send waste off-site for disposal, the TSDF is required to return to you a copy of the original manifest. If you don't receive the manifest from the TSDF, then you must submit an Exception Report. SQGs must file an Exception Report if they have not received a copy of the manifest with the handwritten signature of the owner or operator of the designated facility within 45 days of the date the waste was accepted by the initial transporter. There is no special form for the Exception Report. You can write directly on a copy of the manifest or attach a separate sheet of paper (handwritten or typed). Make sure you include:

The Exception Reporting requirements for LQGs are a little different. If you do not receive a copy of the manifest within 35 days of the date that the waste was accepted by the original transporter, you must contact the transporter and TSDF to determine the status of the waste. If you still haven't received a copy of the manifest within 45 days, then you must submit the Exception Report as described above for SQGs.


You must retain records for three years, including:

The three-year period is automatically extended indefinitely if you have any unresolved enforcement action. In this case, maintain the files until all matters are fully resolved.

More Resources

Managing Your Hazardous waste: A Guide for Small Businesses (EPA 530-K-19-001). This handbook provides an overview of the regulations to give you a basic understanding of your responsibilities when generating and managing hazardous waste.

Summary of Requirements for Very Small Quantity Generators (EPA 530-F-20-002). If you generate no more than 100 kg (220 lbs) of hazardous waste and no more than 1 kg (2.2 lbs) of acute hazardous waste per month, you are a VSQG. As a VSQG, you must comply with three basic waste management requirements.

Hazardous Waste Requirements for Large Quantity Generators (EPA 530-F-20-003). To assist your business in learning about these requirements, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prepared this summary fact sheet.

e-Manifest Fact Sheet (EPA 530-F-18-006). EPA established a national system for tracking hazardous waste shipments electronically. This system known as "eManifest," will modernize the nation's cradle-to-grave hazardous waste tracking process while saving valuable time, resources, and dollars for industry and states.

RCRA in Focus: Construction, Demolition and Renovation. EPA guidance for managing C&D debris.

Managing Your Environmental Responsibilities (MYER). A Planning Guide for Construction and Development This document explains in detail the environmental obligations that construction companies can face across the various federal laws (stormwater, air, wetlands, waste, etc.). Use it to factor in costs during the bidding process, assign responsibilities and use the checklists to self-audit.