Hazardous Waste Management Case Study: Reducing a $97,500 IDEM Fine

The regulations pertaining to hazardous waste management are complex. If businesses are not diligent in their monitoring and disposal processes, they can easily step out of compliance and face hefty fines. A client of ours found themselves in this expensive situation and looked to us to help lead them out of it.

Our client is a manufacturer of commercial vehicles with three separate operations on one site under one hazardous waste ID number. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) received an anonymous call about poor waste management practices at our client’s facilities. IDEM sent an inspector out unannounced, and he found 5 suspicious drums. When asked, an employee indicated the drums had been stored in that spot for years and he had no idea what was in them. The inspector moved to another operations building and found 50 drums of an unknown substance. After on-site testing of the drums, it was determined that the first 5 drums held hazardous waste consisting of 3 drums of MEK and 2 of waste oil containing lead. The 50 drums were waste paint. In the hazardous waste world, a waste is a waste when it is declared a waste by the owner. The inspector declaring the substances in the drums as waste set the starting point for our client’s troubles.

What happened next was a cascade of one violation after another. First, as a small quantity generator, our client had 180 days to ship their waste. Since the first 5 drums had supposedly been on site for years, they were deemed a large quantity generator, a designation with stricter compliance requirements that they had not been following. Next, the 50 drums of paint had been left at the site by a previous vendor, and after the inspection and hazardous waste determination, were moved to another facility for reuse. Unfortunately, our client transported the waste without a license to a non-Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility. Multiple regulations were broken by this one act.

Unfortunately, this series of events resulted in two years of working through the violations with IDEM. Our client had not intended to do anything illegal; case-in-point, they reused the 50 drums of waste paint instead of adding to the state’s hazardous waste storage. Bad information given to IDEM by a facility employee plus poor waste management practices led to hundreds of hours by top executives and our team to fight the fine. Fortunately, those efforts led to a fine reduction from $97,500 to $40,000, but the true cost of the situation was much more.

Developing and implementing a waste generation plan can help avoid these types of situations. The plan defines the process for managing the waste generated at your facility as well as items dropped off by vendors. Designating an internal or outsourced Environmental Health and Safety person to centralize the process is essential to staying in compliance as well. That person is in charge of managing the movement of hazardous materials within your facility, reviewing hazardous waste manifests, and generating monthly documentation to monitor how much waste is being created and how it is being disposed of. An EH&S designee can also train your employees on your hazardous waste process and best practices to help you avoid mishaps. We also recommend performing random audits of your facilities to ensure items are being labeled properly, the process is being followed, and employees are well-trained.

Our clients ended up being designated as a large quantity generator and facing a huge fine due to waste mismanagement and poor employee training. The DECA Environmental Team led the fight to minimize the fine, and then helped them create a process and train employees to ensure this situation never happens again. Our Waste Generation Plan Services are designed to help businesses avoid the unfortunate place our clients found themselves in.

Waste Generation Plan Services

  • Waste Determinations
  • Hazardous Waste Generation Audits
  • Secondary Use Options & Disposal Plans
  • Reporting Requirements & Contingency Plans
  • Employee Training & Random Audits

The implications of mismanaging hazardous waste can get expensive. The DECA Environmental Team can identify problems and take steps to correct them before they become major issues. Send us an email, or give us a call at 317-575-0095.