Hazardous Waste – Essay

21 Aug No Comments

Hazardous Waste

Columbia Southern University


This paper will provide information about the four characteristics of a hazardous waste. There are four lists of hazardous waste that will be discussed. The manifest system of tracking hazardous waste will be explained. A description of treatment, storage, and disposal facilities in my area will be provided. There are differences in a hazardous waste landfill and a municipal solid waste landfill and two features of a hazardous waste landfill will be provided. The progress of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund will be provided. Hazardous waste can be very dangerous to humans and the environment. Hazardous waste must be handled and disposed of properly to ensure the safety of people and the environment.

Hazardous Waste

Wastes are defined as hazardous if they cause or significantly contribute to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness; or pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). The federal regulation governing hazardous waste is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA is enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The reason RCRA was introduced was because many hazardous wastes were being dumped or left on the ground and in waterways. RCRA provided guidance on how to properly handle, store, and dispose of hazardous waste. This regulation has significantly helped our preserve our environment.

Characteristics of Hazardous Waste

There are four characteristics of hazardous waste. Toxic wastes are one characteristic of hazardous waste. Toxic wastes are poisons, even in very small or trace amounts (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). Toxic waste are the most dangerous types of hazardous waste to people. Toxic wastes can be deadly to humans and animals. Toxic waste may cause an immediate danger to life and health (IDLH) or cause long term illness such as cancer.

The other three characteristics of hazardous waste are reactive wastes, ignitable wastes, and corrosive wastes. These wastes are dangerous, but do not cause the dangerous health effects to humans and animals as toxic wastes do. Reactive wastes need something to help them become hazardous, unlike toxic wastes. Reactive wastes are unstable and tend to react vigorously with air, water, or other substances (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). Ignitable wastes typically need a heat source to ignite, but they can spontaneously combust during storage, transport, or disposal (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). Corrosive wastes can become a threat to human or animal health if the waste comes in contact with the skin. Corrosive wastes destroy materials and living tissue by chemical reaction (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). All characteristics of hazardous wastes are dangerous, which is why they have to be regulated. Human negligence with hazardous wastes have caused many disasters and many Superfund sites.

Lists of Hazardous Waste

There are four lists of hazardous waste, which are the F list, K list, P list, and the U list. These lists can be found in 40 CFR 261. The F list designates as hazardous particular solid wastes from certain industrial or manufacturing processes (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). Since the processes producing these wastes can occur in different sectors of industry, the F list wastes are known as wastes from nonspecific sources (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). Electroplating wastes, wood preserving wastes, and dioxin bearing wastes are some examples of waste on the F list (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). The K list of hazardous waste designates solid wastes form certain specific industries as hazardous (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). Wastes from iron and steel production, pesticide manufacturing, and petroleum refining are examples of wastes on the K list (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). The P list and the U list are similar in that both list as hazardous certain commercial chemical products when they are discarded or intended to be discarded (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). The difference in wastes on the P list and wastes on the U list is that those on the U list are identified as toxic wastes (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). Wastes from aluminum phosphide, ammonium picrate, acetic acid are just a few wastes on a very long list you would find on the P list (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012). There are also many wastes on the U list, but benzene, calcium cromate, and chloroform are few that will be on the U list (“Hazardous Waste Listings”, 2012).

Manifest Tracking System

The manifest system of tracking hazardous wastes is a major element to RCRA which allows the hazardous waste to be tracked from its point of origin to the final disposal (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). The generator gives the manifest and the waste to a licensed waste transporter (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). The transporter delivers the waste to the destination and must comply with all DOT and EPA regulations (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). The driver will notify local authorities and take action to contain the waste in the event there is a leak during transport (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). Every time the manifest changes hands, the form must be signed and a copy is kept by each party involved (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015).

Treatment, Storage, and Disposal

There are a few wastewater treatment plants in my area, there is actually one on the government installation where I work. We also have three different hazardous waste storage facilities where I work also. We have a storage facility for radiation waste, chemical waste, and solid waste. We do not have a disposal facility near my area, but we do have a transfer facility and will have another transfer facility in the near future.

Hazardous Waste Landfill Features

There are a few features that a hazardous waste landfill has that a municipal solid waste landfill (MSWL) does not have. A hazardous waste landfill is also known as a secure landfill. A secure landfill is constructed with a double impermeable bottom liner, a double leachate collection system, an impermeable cover or cap, and a groundwater monitoring system for the disposal of hazardous waste (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). A secure landfill also has a minimum of 10 feet of height separating the base of the landfill from underlying bedrock or a groundwater aquifer (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015). The secure landfill also has a double liner on the bottom of the landfill to protect the ground from hazardous waste (Nathanson & Schneider, 2015).

Superfund Progress

The main progress of the Superfund is that people are more aware of how they handle, store, and dispose of hazardous waste. This knowledge keeps people and organizations from improperly disposing of hazardous waste because they know how it can harm people and the environment. Since we understand the effects, we now create less Superfund sites. This knowledge also may expedite cleanup of Superfund sites because public officials can and will pressure the Superfund process to be performed quickly due to health risks (Sigman, H. 2000). Health risks are the most important reason for expediting cleanup (Sigman, H. 2000). Hopefully in the future we can avoid creating Superfund sites to help keep our environment clean.


Hazardous Waste Listings, (2012). A User-Friendly Reference Document. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-01/documents/hw_listref_sep2012.pdf

Nathanson, J.A., & Schneider, R. A. (2015). Basic environmental technology: Water supply, waste management, and pollution control (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson

Sigman, H., (2000, May). The Pace of Progress at Superfund Sites: Policy Goals and Interest Group Influence. Retrieved from: https://www.nber.org/papers/w7704

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