Tom Speight, CHMM, and Paul Tanner, PG, LEP
For a one-page document, EPA’s humble Form 8700-22, commonly known as the Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest, carries a lot of very important information, is used for a number of different purposes, and is generally one of the most important routine pieces of paper in the environmental industry. Launched in the grim days of Love Canal and the Valley of the Drums, in 2018 the manifest is going electronic in a big way.
EPA created the manifest program in 1980, as part of the modern Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) system of registered hazardous generators, transporters, and treatment, storage and disposal facilities (TSDFs). The process has had several major upsides: it has improved the environment by improving the accountability for waste, cutting down on inappropriate disposal of waste, and has spurred development of waste minimization and “greener” manufacturing processes.
The intent of the manifest is to have a single document that provides a diary of what a waste material is, where it came from, who transported it, where it went, and what was done with it—RCRA’s proverbial “cradle to grave” tracking. Once the material has reached its ultimate end or has been processed so as to lose its identity (such as being mixed with other wastes and batched into hazardous waste fuel for use at permitted cement kilns), copies of the completed manifest are sent back to the generator and the generator’s state environmental regulators to close the loop. The manifest has gone through several versions and the current form, a six-part preprinted paper form, has been in use since 2005—here’s one example (click image for larger view).
While the waste is in transit, the manifest also serves as shipping papers under Department of Transportation regulations. Because of the hazardous nature of the waste, the manifest also includes references to emergency procedures in US DOT’s Emergency Response Guide, so that first responders can easily know what hazards may exist, what precautions to take in the event of fire, explosion, or spill, and what first aid may be necessary for affected persons.
The manifest has additional uses once the waste has gone to its ‘grave,’ (or in the case of incinerators and cement kilns, a Viking funeral).
- Generators keep archives of manifests as documentation not only of appropriate management of the waste (in the event of a regulatory or ISO audit), but that the generator was acting within the limits of its generator category (large quantity, small quantity, or very small quantity).
- Large quantity generators and TSDFs also rely on manifests for tracking their waste throughput for RCRA Biennial Hazardous Waste Reporting.
- Companies that maintain ISO certifications use manifests to track waste minimization efforts, for example as part of the “Environmental Aspects” under ISO-14001:2015.
- Facilities that have to report chemical usage under the federal Toxics Release Inventory program or the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act typically look to manifests to track how much of a chemical was managed as a hazardous waste (and what then happened to it), as opposed to being incorporated into a finished product, recovered or destroyed by an air or water pollution control system, etc.
- In the least-optimal scenario, manifest records can be used to assess how much waste a generator shipped to a TSDF if the receiving facility falls into RCRA Corrective Action or Superfund status and generators start getting dunned for contributions to remediation costs.
Some states have also created separate regulatory programs that rely on manifests (such as the Connecticut Transfer Act), under which archived manifests are used as a primary means of evaluating whether a facility generated more than 100 kilograms of hazardous waste in a month. The “manifest trigger” can add significant cost and complexity to a real estate transaction —this is where the descriptions, waste codes and management methods under Sections 9, 13 and 19 of the manifest can really become important in determining whether a waste was really hazardous (since it is not unusual to ship materials that aren’t, strictly speaking, “hazardous waste” on a manifest) was just shipped on a manifest), and whether it was shipped for recycling or for disposal.
Unfortunately, manifests have also always meant paperwork, in some cases rooms full of boxes of archived manifests dating back to the early 1980s, and in this has to some degree been a burden shared by industry and regulators alike.
In order to keep pace with technology and to reduce the paperwork burden, prompted by Obama- era legislation, EPA is rolling out a new eManifest system for June 30, 2018, which will convert most of the existing paper system into an electronic one.
The rule requires the following eManifest be implemented on June 20, 2018. Some of the significant aspects of the roll-out include:
- Everyone who will be signing or using manifests, including generator staff, truck drivers, transporter compliance managers, and TSDF staff, will need to create an individual user account.
- Manifests will be prepared, signed, and transmitted digitally, although for the foreseeable future paper copies will be retained for use as shipping papers—the driver still needs a copy in his truck cab.
- The RCRA Biennial Reporting process will be integrated with eManifest, although the logistics of this are still being worked out.
- The system will be funded by fees charged on receiving facilities (mostly TSDFs), ranging from $4 for fully electronic documents to $20 for paper copies, with the ultimate goal of paper elimination in 5 years.
- Manifests may become more accessible to enforcement personnel.
With June 30 fast approaching, EPA has been hitting the road, providing talks to state agencies and industry trade groups. At one such meeting, hosted by the Connecticut Environmental Forum on April 4th, Beth Deabay and Lynn Hanifan of EPA provided a peek into the front-end of the system (generator and vendor registrations and protocols to start an eManifest) but admitted that the back end of the system (summary reports) is still under development in Washington.
As with pretty much any regulatory change or new digital technology, there will be a learning curve and some bumpy starts. Smaller waste vendors may be playing catch-up and could find the changeover difficult, but the larger national-level generators, transporters and waste facilities are already using the system on a small scale and working out some of the kinks, so hopefully the transmission to a digital eManifest will be fairly smooth.
Looking back on the transition from paper to digital here at OTO, the shift was awkward, and took some time, but we can’t imagine bookshelves of reports anymore…. the high point of the process was recycling over two and a half tons of paper in one day alone, and turning our old document storage into part of a nice new conference room. In the coming years, we will look back on the rollout of digital manifests and are likely to appreciate simpler data processing, saving shelf space and trees!