News and Events Involving Environmental Law, Published by Chicago Environmental Attorney Dave Scriven-Young
of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. -- (312) 881-6309

U.S. EPA’s New Risk Analysis for Solvent-Contaminated Wipes Rule

Yesterday, U.S. EPA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Data Availability inviting comments on a revised risk analysis for proposed revisions to regulations governing solvent-contaminated wipes.

A wide variety of industries use wipes (including rags, shop towels, disposable wipes and paper towels) for cleaning and degreasing.  Those wipes are handled in various ways.  For example, wipes may be used once or several times before they are thrown away, while other wipes are used, laundered, and reused multiple times.  During cleaning and degreasing operations, these wipes may become contaminated with solvents, as well as with other materials.  When those wipes are discarded, they can, under certain circumstances, be considered hazardous waste under the federal hazardous waste regulations.

In 2003, U.S. EPA proposed exclusions from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) definition of solid waste for solvent-contaminated wipes sent to a laundry or dry cleaner, and from the definition of hazardous waste for solvent-contaminated wipes sent to a landfill or combustion facility,  provided certain conditions were met.  Industry argued for this proposed change because, they argued, when small amounts of solvent are used on each wipe, minimal risk occurs when they are ultimately disposed.

After U.S. EPA proposed the exclusions, it decided to conduct a “more robust risk analysis” to determine the risk to the public and the environment by these wipes.  U.S. EPA issued yesterday’s Notice of Data Availability to request comments on the new risk analysis and to inform the public of potential changes to the solvent-contaminated wipe rule.

The first change would allow the disposal of solvents not showing a risk in any municipal landfill or nonhazardous waste landfill whether lined or unlined.  The solvents that indicated a potential risk if disposed of in an unlined landfill could only be disposed in a lined municipal landfill or lined non-hazardous waste landfill.

The second change would establish conditions that allow all solvent-contaminated wipes, no matter which solvent they contain, except perhaps tetrachloroethylene, to be sent to a municipal or industrial landfill unit subject to, or otherwise meeting, certain other requirements.

Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments.

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