Learn more and comment on DOE’s draft changes to solid-waste handling standards

From the Department of Ecology:

Draft language regarding changes to one of the state’s main solid-waste handling rules is now under internal review and not available to share, but Ecology plans to have two public comment periods, at which time draft language will be open for review. The first will be an informal public-comment period around July 1. To receive notice of comment periods or public meetings, please sign on to the listserve by clicking here. This is the only sure way to receive notice of such events, and takes just a few seconds to sign up.

The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) has new information to share with you about changes to one of the state’s main solid waste handling rules, chapter 173-350 WAC, Solid Waste Handling Standards. This rule sets standards for a variety of solid waste activities, including composting, pile storage, transfer stations, limited purpose landfills, and more. Ecology is adding a new section to this rule entitled Soil and Sediment Criteria and Use (WAC 173-350-235). This section will address how to manage soil and sediment when there are indications a release of contaminants to the soil or sediment has occurred at more than de minimis amounts. This is not exclusive to soil/sediment from official cleanup sites. The types of material the section will affect include street waste, petroleum-contaminated soil, engineered soil, other soils relocated from the point of generation that may contain contaminants, and upland placement of sediment from surface waters containing contaminants.

There are currently no rules that set soil or upland sediment contaminant limits that are safe enough for human health and the environment to be unregulated (“clean”), set contaminant limits that are able to be used safely under certain circumstances, or that require disposal or treatment at a permitted facility. For sediment, rules currently allow upland disposal of sediment when it meets criteria for open-water disposal. However, what is harmful in water may not be harmful upland, and vice versa. Existing practices leave receiving sites in the position of possibly taking materials that are harmful to human health or the environment, and regulatory agencies have limited authority to address questions/problems/concerns/complaints when issues arise. 

Here are some key points of the draft rule:

  • Ecology developed draft language and standards with a stakeholder workgroup of 11 people over a two-year period.  Stakeholders consisted of industries that will be affected by the section, as well as regulatory agencies. Notes from all stakeholder workgroup meetings and the list of stakeholders can be found here.
  • “Impacted” soil and sediment will be subject to the rule. As drafted currently, impacted soil and sediment is tied to release of contaminants at more than de minimis amounts into the soil and sediment.  Soil and sediment will not be regulated under the rule if there are no indications of a release, or levels are naturally occurring.
  • Impacted soil and sediment to be taken to permitted landfills or treatment facilities permitted to accept such materials will not be subject to the section.
  • Engineered soil reused on another project for the same engineering properties will not be subject to the section.
  • A permit will not be required for use of soil and sediment as long as conditions in the rule are met. Conditions may include: testing of materials; using materials only as allowed and meeting limitations for such uses, like separation from groundwater; one-time submittal of a notification form; and retaining records. 
  • Impacted soil temporarily removed and used back on the same project site is subject to very minimal conditions.
  • The rule includes use options and has three sets of contaminant limits or Soil/Sediment Screening Levels (SSLs):
    > “Clean” SSLs: Soil and sediment meeting clean SSLs will not be regulated under the rule.
    > “Limited use” SSLs for fill applications: Soil and sediment meetings these SSLs may be used as fill at properties with limited human and animal access.
    > “Limited use” SSLs for shallow applications: Soil and sediment meetings these SSLs may be used in a layer 2’ thick or less at properties with limited human and animal access.
  • The rule will also allow placement at sites with similar types and levels of contaminants, provided the receiving site does not require cleanup under state cleanup rules.
  • The draft rule contains many new definitions for understanding the new section. New definitions were added for de minimis, due diligence, engineered soil, impacted soil/sediment, limited access properties, release, etc. 
  • SSLs are based on consideration of several existing standards, including state cleanup levels protective of humans, ecological impacts, and groundwater, EPA standards for human and ecological impacts, and background limits. 
  • Site-specific SSLs are not considered under the new section as this would warrant greater oversight than a permit-exempt activity. However, other sections of the rule, such as for limited purpose landfills or beneficial use determinations, remain options for management of impacted soil and sediment that may exceed limits or uses allowed in the new section.

Please contact Marni Solheim at DOE at any time with questions (contact info below). She is available to meet in person or over the phone as well. Remember to sign-on to the listserve if you want to receive notice of public comment periods and public meetings. And please, share any information with colleagues.

Marni Solheim  Senior Regulatory & Facilities Specialist
Washington State Dept. of Ecology, Waste 2 Resources Program

4601 N. Monroe Spokane WA 99205
509.329.3564, marni.solheim@ecy.wa.gov