The definition of a hazardous waste starts with the definition of a solid waste. A solid waste is any solid, liquid or contained gaseous material that is discarded by being disposed of, incinerated or recycled. Solid wastes can also be the byproduct of a manufacturing process, a commercial product that is used in a business or home, garbage, etc.
A hazardous waste is a solid waste that because of its quantity, concentration and/or physical, chemical or infectious characteristics may:
cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious illness; or
pose a substantial hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, disposed of or otherwise managed.
Hazardous wastes are divided into two categories:
a) Listed waste
A solid waste is a hazardous waste if it appears on one of four lists published in the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR 261). These hazardous wastes are called listed hazardous waste.
b) Characteristic wastes
A solid waste that is not a hazardous waste may still be a characteristic hazardous waste. There are four properties used to classify a characteristic hazardous waste:
Ignitable - It catches fire under certain conditions (i.e., it supports combustion at or below 140F).
Corrosive - It accelerates the corrosion of metals or has a very high (>12.5) or low (<2.0) pH.
Reactive - It is unstable and explodes or produces toxic fumes, gases and vapors when mixed with water or under conditions such as heat or pressure.
Toxic - It is harmful or fatal when ingested or absorbed; or it leaches toxic chemicals into the soil or groundwater when disposed of on land.
The hazardous waste universe is divided into two categories. The first category is those individuals or companies that generate hazardous waste. This category is regulated by the Compliance Section of the hazardous waste program. The second category is those facilities that manage the hazardous waste generated by others. This category is regulated by the Permitting Section of the Hazardous Waste Program.
The management of hazardous waste generated by others requires a specific authorization (permit) from the state of Florida. The issuance of a permit requires review of information about the location of the facility, the type of activities conducted at the facility (i.e., storage in tanks, containers, treatment or incineration), operational practices at the facility, and closure plans. The permitting section is also responsible for reviewing applications for mercury recovery and reclamation facilities and for used oil processors. It should be noted that used oil by its nature is not a hazardous waste, but improper management practices could cause it to become a hazardous waste.
Compliance inspections are conducted at all generators, transporters, and treatment, storage and disposal facilities to determine their compliance with federal and state regulations. Inspections are our main source of information. Legal enforcement is taken for violations detected during inspections. The main purpose of enforcement actions is to ensure that the facilities return to compliance. This return to compliance may involve doing remediation to soil and groundwater to remove contaminates that have been released due to operations at these facilities.
In addition to our compliance and enforcement activities, technical assistance is provided to the public, facility owners, consultants and law enforcement officials. This assistance is disseminated in various ways, such as answering compliance questions on the phone; forwarding documents of various hazardous waste issues; giving public seminars to the regulated community; and giving both specific and general presentations before school groups and civic organizations.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.