Idaho Environmental Guide for Local Governments: Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste is waste with characteristics that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. Hazardous wastes can be liquids, solids, contained gases, or sludges. They can be the by-products of manufacturing processes or simply discarded commercial products. Examples include cleaning fluid; pesticides; paints; batteries; electronics; chemicals; and mercury-containing light bulbs, switches, thermometers, and other instruments.
Why Communities Should Care
Hazardous waste is dangerous or potentially harmful to human health and the environment and can harm drinking water, surface water, and ground water.
Idaho's Ground Water Quality Rule (Section 400.01) prohibits causing or allowing the release, spilling, leaking, emission, discharge, escape, leaching, or disposal of a contaminant into the environment in a manner that:
- Causes a ground water quality standard to be exceeded
- Injures a beneficial use of ground water or
- Is not in accordance with a permit, consent order or applicable best management practice, best available method or best practical method
Currently, through exemptions in federal and state regulations, conditionally exempt small quantity generators (CESQGs) may, at the discretion of permitted solid waste landfill operators and permitted publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities operators, dispose of hazardous waste at these facilities. However, to divert CESQG waste from these facilities, DEQ encourages CESQGs to use best management practices to explore recycling or reusing this waste, to participate in city/county CESQG/HHW collection programs, or to dispose of this waste at a hazardous waste permitted treatment, storage or disposal facility.
Cities and counties are required to consider the impact on ground water quality when amending, repealing, or adopting a comprehensive plan and to incorporate policies from the Idaho Ground Water Quality Plan into their programs. Cities, counties, and other political subdivisions are also authorized and encouraged to implement ground water quality protection policies within their jurisdictions.
What Communities Can Do
- Prior to project approval, request that project information specify applicability of requirements under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Idaho Hazardous Waste Management Act, and the Idaho Ground Water Quality Plan.
- Understand each project by reviewing its generator status and the chemicals, toxic materials, and hazardous waste associated with its operations. Review projects for potential to use alternative materials that have less impact on the health and welfare of the community.
- All businesses in Idaho, including city- and county-owned facilities, are required to determine if they generate hazardous waste and comply with various requirements. (Household hazardous waste is a household waste and therefore allowed to go to a municipal solid waste landfill.) CESQG waste is allowed to go to a municipal or non-municipal landfill through a conditional exemption in the hazardous waste regulations. However, CESQG waste may only be disposed of at a municipal or non-municipal landfill if authorized by the landfill and included in the landfill's operating plan. Diversion programs or local ordinances should be developed and implemented for hazardous waste to keep it out of landfills. Have an operating plan to address CESQGs and household hazardous waste.
- Plan ahead for sites with tanks.
- Require that project sites be evaluated for underground tanks and contamination prior to remodeling as there may be potential contamination in subsurface soils. Disturbance of contaminated soils could allow harmful vapors to contaminate indoor air, among other problems.
- Consider placement of storage tanks with regard to existing individual wells, public water system wells, and distribution lines to drinkable water to prevent contamination in the event of a release of material from the tanks.
- Assure that drinking water and wastewater pipes are adequately separated and wastewater lines are down-gradient of public water system wells and their features.
- Plan ahead for ground water protection.
- Implement ground water protection policies. The Idaho Ground Water Quality Plan provides guidance on ground water policies and implementation strategies for local government management efforts.
- Consult the Idaho Ground Water Quality Plan and evaluate city or county use and management of pesticides, chemicals, and hazardous waste.
- Adopt land use regulations or ordinances to protect ground water (especially for activities located near sensitive ground water areas).
- Develop and use best management practices for facilities and persons that store and use materials that have the potential to contaminate soil and ground water. This includes assisting with selecting, designing, installing, and maintaining secondary containment systems.
- Consider a requirement that projects have pollution liability insurance.
- Implement a household hazardous waste collection program for used oil, pharmaceuticals, and household hazardous waste.
- Develop educational and voluntary programs to discourage the release of contaminants to ground water to reduce or eliminate contamination from these sources.
- Identify groups in the community working on water issues, such as utility companies, water quality agencies, or advocacy organizations, and explore ways to collaborate with them.
- Implement homeowner and business education programs and community and business stewardship programs.
- Contact DEQ for training and technical assistance in implementing ground water and drinking water protection.
- Assess proposed development projects or any abandoned or underutilized properties in the community for potential to use brownfields funds or assistance.
- Brownfields are properties for which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Abandoned or underutilized properties result in wasted infrastructure, development of green space on the edge of town, and blight in urban and neighborhood areas. Communities may struggle to find new uses for brownfields, whether as a neighborhood park or as a new commercial or retail use, until environmental issues are resolved. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases; facilitates job growth; utilizes existing infrastructure; takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land; and improves and protects the environment.
- Local governments can use the Idaho Brownfields Program to revitalize properties or buildings by requesting a brownfields assessment, applying for an assessment or clean-up grant, adding a property to DEQ's brownfield inventory, or proposing a brownfield site to DEQ. Local governments do not have to own the property to ask DEQ to conduct an assessment.
- Local governments have the authority to implement ordinances that help prevent ground water contamination. Many land uses that pose a potential threat to ground water are managed at the local level. Therefore, it is local government that can most efficiently administer and implement some provisions of the Idaho Ground Water Quality Plan, particularly when implementation can be incorporated into existing programs. Determine what is best for the health and welfare of the community.