NDEQ was authorized in 1985 by EPA to administer portions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) program. RCRA regulations are incorporated in NDEQ Title 128 - Nebraska Hazardous Waste Regulations, which is updated as the Federal RCRA regulations change.
The purpose of the RCRA program is to ensure proper management of hazardous wastes from the point of generation until final disposal. Activities performed under the RCRA program include:
- helping hazardous waste generators maintain compliance through a Compliance Assistance Program,
- performing compliance inspections and enforcement actions,
- investigating complaints,
- reviewing groundwater contamination monitoring and remediation systems,
- reviewing permit applications and determining whether permits should be issued for proposed treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) facilities,
- reviewing/approving closure and post-closure plans for hazardous waste storage areas and disposal sites
- maintaining data systems to support decision-making and make information available to the public.
The Compliance Assistance Program helps Nebraska businesses, governmental entities, and private citizens comply with RCRA regulations in a non-enforcement mode. This program works with the regulated community in a partnership promoting hazardous waste minimization and pollution prevention to help waste generators actually reduce the amount of hazardous waste being generated in the state. An additional product of these efforts is ultimately reducing the amount of regulatory requirements on our industries by helping to bring hazardous waste generators into lower RCRA threshold levels.
Compliance and enforcement activities include investigating complaints and the inspection of hazardous waste generators and transporters, hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities, and used oil marketers and burners. Other compliance and enforcement activities include conducting comprehensive groundwater monitoring evaluations and operation and maintenance inspections of sampling and analysis procedures at RCRA sites to ensure that useful and representative data is being collected.
The RCRA program also conducts extensive permitting and closure activities to minimize and eliminate the release of hazardous material into the environment. Closure actions are required for treatment, storage or disposal (TSD) facilities that are discontinuing operations or that have operated without a permit. Permits are required for operating TSD facilities. Post-closure permits are required for TSD facilities that have gone through closure and have remaining contamination.
There is one operating hazardous waste storage and treatment facility in Nebraska: the Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. incinerator near Kimball. This facility has undergone annual performance test burns to demonstrate proper operation since hazardous waste treatment began in 1994. Operational and physical changes at the Clean Harbors incinerator have resulted in numerous permit modifications. These changes were made to improve the performance of the facility and ensure compliance with applicable regulations. In addition, Nebraska oversees two active hazardous waste storage facilities which do not treat hazardous waste.
Corrective action is an important part of the RCRA program that addresses past and present activities at RCRA facilities that resulted in hazardous waste and hazardous constituents being released into soil, groundwater, surface water, and air. Corrective action requires investigation and remediation of the release from regulated facilities. These regulations can make the former owner of a property responsible for mismanagement of hazardous waste if the current owner could not reasonably be expected to have actual knowledge of the presence of hazardous waste at the site.
Funding for RCRA program activities is provided by an EPA grant, which requires a 25% state match. This match is met with state General Funds. Additionally, the Department can charge proposed commercial hazardous waste management facilities a fee to cover expenses for facility siting committee activities. There were no new facilities proposed in FY09.
The RCRA program collects a yearly fee from commercial hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. Currently, one facility in Nebraska performs hazardous waste treatment and disposal. The fees are based on the total yearly volume or weight of hazardous waste treated or disposed. Fees are due March 1, and are remitted to the state general fund.