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Environmental Fact Sheet: Hazardous Waste Identification Rule for Contaminated Media (HWIR-Media) - Proposed Rule

Fact Sheet

March 1996


In a continuing effort to reinvent and streamline environmental regulations, the EPA is releasing for comment a proposed rule which would reexamine many of the RCRA Subtitle C treatment and management standards for contaminated media and other wastes managed in cleanups overseen by EPA or authorized states. EPA anticipates the final rule will accelerate cleanups and reduce their costs.


Under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Congress gave EPA the authority to regulate the management, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste. Subtitle C regulations were originally primarily intended to regulate currently generated hazardous wastes, not contaminated media and other wastes resulting from cleanups. The application of existing Subtitle C requirements to contaminated media and other cleanup wastes often frustrates cleanups because it imposes unnecessary costs, delays and limits cleanup options.

This proposed rule "Requirements for Management of Hazardous contaminated Media" commonly referred to as the "Hazardous Waste identification Rule for Contaminated Media (HWIR-media)" will address the major RCRA Subtitle C management requirements that are considered the biggest causes of problems and delays for cleanups. These requirements include the Land Disposal restrictions (LDRs), Minimum Technological Requirements (MTRs),and RCRA permitting procedures.


The proposal would establish modified Land Disposal restrictions (LDR) treatment requirements, and permitting procedures for contaminated media which remain subject to the hazardous waste regulations. It would also relieve much contaminated media of Minimum Technological Requirements (MTRs),and would give EPA and authorized states the authority to exempt certain contaminated media from regulation as hazardous waste sunder Subtitle C of RCRA.

These provisions would withdraw and replace the existing regulations for Corrective Action Management Units (CAMUs). The rule would greatly simplify the procedures for authorizing states for this rule, the Hazardous Waste Identification Rule (HWIR-Waste), and the Revised Technical Standards for Hazardous Waste Combustors. The proposal would also provide an exemption from Subtitle C of RCRA for contaminated sediments dredged and managed under permits from the Clean Water Act and the Marine Protection research and Sanctuaries Act.

HWIR-Media would establish two new regulatory designations for contaminated media that would otherwise be subject to regulation under the current RCRA Subtitle C regulations. Those two designations, "above the Bright Line" and "below the Bright line," would distinguish between media that must remain in Subtitle C and media that are eligible for exemption from Subtitle C requirements. HWIR-media proposes a more flexible set of regulatory standards (by comparison to the current RCRA regulations) for those media which remain subject to Subtitle C. EPA and authorized States would have the authority to set site-specific waste management requirements for those "below the bright Line" media which they decided to exempt from the Subtitle C regulations.

The proposed rule would specify a "Bright Line" of constituent-specific concentrations for as many hazardous constituents as possible; that is, all constituents for which the Agency has sufficient verified human health effects data to calculate the Bright Line levels. If media contained concentrations of any "Bright Line" constituent equal to or above the concentration specified in the "Bright Line," then the media would be considered "above the Bright Line." The Bright Line levels themselves are based on a simple residential exposure scenario; for soils, assuming ingestion and inhalation of contaminants by humans, and for groundwater, assuming direct ingestion of groundwater. In setting these levels, EPA proposes to use a 10-3 risk level for carcinogens and a hazard index of 10 for non-carcinogens.

This rule would replace a set of generic, national management standards for cleanup wastes with a more flexible regulatory framework under RCRA. This should enhance the ability of regulators to select common-sense remedies based on site-specific conditions, at a wide variety of cleanup sites, while still ensuring that threats to human health and the environment are minimized. EPA strongly encourages public comment on this proposal.


This rule can only be applied to cleanups being overseen by EPA or an authorized state. It applies only to contaminated media that are regulated as hazardous (i.e., that exhibit a hazardous characteristic, or are contaminated with listed hazardous waste). Some provisions and some alternative options also apply to non-media remediation wastes.

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