Often when reviewing proposed USEPA regulations and interpretations published in the Federal Register, we conclude that the net result is to increase the overall regulatory burden on the regulated community. However, in the case of the Notice of Request for Public Comment (Federal Register, February 29, 2012, Volume 77, Number 40, p.12293-12295), “PCB Bulk Product v. Remediation Waste,” we seem to have a case where USEPA is proposing to simplify and streamline one facet of the cleanup and disposal of PCBs under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Unfortunately, while the public comment period has already closed, I think it is worth taking note of USEPA’s proposed reinterpretation of its position regarding the cleanup requirements and disposal options for PCB-contaminated building materials. In particular, USEPA is proposing to reinterpret its definitions of bulk product waste (e.g., PCB-contaminated caulk, paint, mastics, sealants, or adhesives) and remediation waste (e.g., PCB-contaminated masonry or concrete).
PCBs can be present in caulk, paint, mastics, sealants, or adhesives if these materials were manufactured between 1950 and 1978; therefore, PCBs can be present in a broad range of structures. In recent years, USEPA has been focusing greater attention on the potential presence of PCBs in schools built before 1980 and potential exposure of children to dust containing PCBs generated during construction/maintenance activities.
Currently under TSCA, when building materials such as masonry or concrete (termed “substrate” by USEPA) that are designated for disposal are “coated or serviced” by PCB-containing caulk, paint, mastics, sealants, or adhesives, the masonry or concrete must be managed as a PCB remediation waste while the caulk, paint, mastics, sealants, or adhesives can be managed separately as a PCB bulk product waste. The different disposal options for these two waste streams are significant. For example, in a “high-occupancy” (e.g., residential, school, etc.) setting, PCB remediation waste must be cleaned up down to a concentration of 1 ppm for an unrestricted use and if the concentrations of PCBs in the remediation waste are greater than 50 parts per million (ppm), the remediation waste must be disposed in a TSCA-permitted facility. However, PCB bulk product waste, even at concentrations of PCBs greater than 50 ppm, can be disposed in a non-hazardous solid waste facility, as long as this disposal is permitted by that State’s solid waste regulations.
USEPA believes that be expediting the clean-up of building materials containing PCBs, the overall result will be to decrease potential exposure to PCBs in dust and vapors generated during maintenance/demolition activities. Therefore, USEPA is proposing to reinterpret its definitions of bulk product waste and remediation waste so that the underlying substrate (masonry or concrete) can also be managed as a bulk product waste, subject to the following conditions:
- The caulk, paint, etc. is still attached to the substrate. If these materials have been separately removed, then the substrate would be considered a remediation waste for disposal purposes.
- The source of the PCBs present in the substrate is due to the leaching of PCBs from the caulk, paint, etc. onto the substrate, and not due to a spill or release from a source other than the caulk, paint, etc.
A discussion of USEPA’s proposed reinterpretation and links to USEPA guidance documents is available at: www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/pubs/caulk/reinterpretation.htm.
This article was authored by Greg Tieman, Acacia Environmental Group LLC. For more information on the author see here.