This is not your Father’s EPA…This is the New Enforcement of EPA Regulations

PENALTIES FOR ILLEGAL DISPOSAL OF HAZARDOUS WASTE ARE SKYROCKETING:  Last year a chain of automobile stores were hit with penalties totaling $3.38 million dollars ( as reported in San Jose Mercury News ).  Recently, Pep Boys settled to pay $3.7 million dollars in a lawsuit alleging that the company illegally dumped hazardous waste.  An auto dealership in Santa Barbara County settled with the DA’s office earlier this month for $100,000 dollars regarding hazardous waste disposal violations. Earlier this week, Service King settled, without acknowledging any wrongdoing, for $2.35 million dollars for illegal disposal of hazardous waste from collision repair operations such as auto body sanding dust, sanding pads, automotive paints, clear coats, solvents, non-empty aerosols, etc. The responsibility of proper management and disposal of hazardous waste rests on the Business Owner & Operator. We have outlined some policies and procedures that management must use in order to stay clear of such enforcement. The recommendations are as follows:
An automotive dealer must install policies and procedures related to hazardous waste management.
Hazardous Waste Hauler:  Selection criteria should include as follows:
-Haulers that are licensed and registered with the state. Compare costs and services.
-The haulers must provide proper labeling resources and assist with the labeling of hazardous waste containers. They also maintain the schedule for when the waste is collected and ensure it is done in a timely manner, with the paperwork handled properly. Generally, hazardous waste generated by the facility should not be accumulated for more than 90 days.
-Non-California facilities with less than 100 kg/month of hazardous waste are classified as Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generator (CESQG). The dealers that fall in this CESQG category have no accumulation limit on hazardous waste.
Service Manager: The Service Manager and other managers must be on top of issues that arise. Establish processes as follows:
-What are the duties of the management staff regarding hazardous waste compliance?
-Who completed training on hazmat (including an annual refresher), emergency response, and where are the documents maintained?
-Facility Inspection: What person or persons will accompany the inspector on the annual walk-through? Generally, the walk-through results in Notice of Violations (NOV), which, if corrected in the established time-frame, will carry no penalties.
-Who is responsible for completing the tasks noted on violations? The penalties occur when the NOV goes unanswered. Many dealerships change managers often and new managers fail to address the pending violations in timely manner. Establish a process that requires any violations that are handed to the dealership be copied to the GM and other managers who can then monitor the correction status of violations.
-Service Manager must be held responsible for compliance activities. If the Service Managers says, “There are not enough hours in a day”, “this environmental compliance is not my duty”, or “it’s difficult to monitor what the techs are doing viz-a-viz throwing not fully empty containers into the trash”, it’s time to have a talk with your Manager.
An average dealership generates hazardous waste, such as used motor oil, used absorbent (used to absorb hazardous waste), used coolant, used parts washer fluid, non-metal used oil filters, waste thinner (from body shop), contaminated fuel etc.  Other waste, such as tires and used automotive batteries, are not classified as hazardous but they are regulated. You cannot dispose of that waste in dumpsters; instead, it must be recycled. Violations that are being penalized by regulators are as follows:
Illegal Disposal: Disposing automotive fluids, batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices and other regulated waste in the dumpster.
Employee Training: Employees must be trained to place hazardous waste in properly labeled containers. Unidentified waste should not be mixed with other waste. Employees should seek guidance from their manager regarding the proper storage of unidentified waste for later disposal through a licensed hauler.
SPCC Plan: Storage capacity above 1320 gallons needs a Spill Prevention Control & Countermeasures (SPCC) Plan. Secondary containment and covered tank areas minimize the accidental spill to storm sewers. Employee training on SPCC is also mandatory. Keep daily inspection log in files for 3 years.Waste –
Tank Structural Assessment (Title 22): Waste tanks need a structural assessment every 5 years from a registered Professional Engineer (PE). However, facilities generating less than 1000 kg/month are exempt from this requirement. Recently, regulators are more stringent on this code enforcement.California Environmental Reporting System (CERS): All facilities with hazmat in excess of 55 gallons or 200 cu. ft. of compressed gas must report hazmat on CERS. This reporting is similar to the federal Tier II reporting requirements. Inventory, facility maps, and the emergency contact list must be submitted and updated annually.
Spill Response: Employee training is mandatory for spill response. None of the facilities were penalized by the DA’s office for illegal disposal off the lot via a leak or a spill. If such a spill was to happen and the discharge reached the storm sewers, the DA or the EPA would demand the availability of spill response training and availability of spill kits. Spill kits must consist of snakes, absorbent pads, and bags of absorbent. Kits must be capable of mobilization in a matter of seconds.
Containers Labeling: Proper and clear labeling are equally important in guiding employees to place waste in the correct containers. Dealers must contact their hazardous waste haulers and others to provide them with labeling that is compliant for all hazardous waste and universal waste containers. Labeling may need special waste codes and accumulation start dates.
Dumpster Review & Other Miscellaneous Matters: Management must control what goes into dumpsters and trash cans to ensure that risks are minimized. Some practical tools that aid operations are listed as follows:
Eliminate Aerosol Cans & Quart Containers: Bulk purchase of brake cleaner with refillable cans will eliminate majority of aerosol cans going into the dumpster. Similarly, buying oil and ATF in bulk will eliminate quart bottles entering the dumpster. Buying in bulk also is much cheaper as you get a volume discount and eliminate retail packaging.
Oil Saver Equipment: Employees should be encouraged to drain the quart containers, when used, and placed on top of the used oil dolly to drain. Equipment to drain 5 quarts of oil simultaneously may be placed in shop bays. The techs place the quarts in the drain equipment and by the time they return after completing paperwork and returning the car to the lot, the quarts are drained, empty and then disposed into the trash can.
DISCLAIMER: The contents of this newsletter are merely for informational purposes only and are not to be considered as professional advice. Employers must consult their lawyer for legal matters and EPA/OSHA consultants for matters related to Environmental, Health & Safety. This article was authored by Sam Celly of Celly Services, Inc. who has been helping automobile dealers comply with EPA and OSHA regulations since 1987. Sam received his BE (1984) and MS (1986) in Chemical Engineering, followed by a J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law (1997). Our newsletters can be accessed at Your comments/questions are always welcome. Please send them to

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