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Technologies and
Management Strategies
for Hazardous Waste


OTA Reports are the principal documentation of formal assessment projects.
These projects are approved in advance by the Technology Assessment Board.
At the conclusion of a project, the Board has the opportunity to review the report,
but its release does not necessarily imply endorsement of the results by the Board
or its individual members.

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Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 83-600706

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402


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This report presents the analyses, findings, and conclusions of OTA's study of the Federal program for the management of nonnuclear industrial hazardous waste*—an issue that has now reached national prominence and widespread congressional attention. OTA's findings and conclusions concerning the technical components of the Federal hazardous waste program complement current activities which have focused more on administrative problems and issues. Our work offers a number of opportunities, at this critical time, for examining solutions to national hazardous waste problems.

This report is the final product of a 3-year effort at OTA. During that time we have contributed extensively to committee deliberations on hazardous waste management-including such issues as Federal exemptions of hazardous waste from regulation, procedures used to select uncontrolled hazardous waste sites for attention under the Superfund legislation, the use and regulation of land disposal techniques, the adequacy of monitoring requirements for land disposal facilities, the adequacy of EPA's risk assessment analyses, and the potential for introducing the relative hazard levels of wastes into Federal regulations. For example, in November 1981 and in April and August 1982, OTA presented testimony to Senate and House committees concerning a number of technical problems in the implementation of Superfund. In April and June 1982, we provided extensive testimony to House and Senate committees on the regulatory exemption of hazardous wastes generated in relatively small quantities (less than 1 metric ton per month); and in July 1982, a staff memorandum was released on this issue. All bills currently being considered for the reauthorization of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act address this small generator exemption issue which OTA examined in depth.

In conducting the study, OTA analyzed a wide range of views-from the technical community, industrial sectors which generate hazardous waste, the waste management industry, the environmental community, State and local officials, Federal agencies, and the lay public. As a result of that effort, OTA identified four policy options-beyond maintaining the current Federal program-which could form the basis for an immediate and comprehensive approach to protecting human health and the environment from the dangers posed by mismanagement of hazardous waste. One near-term option addresses the means to improve the technical effectiveness of the current regulatory structure. The other near-term option provides a nonregulatory or market approach to achieving a number of desired goals. Both of these options are compatible with the two longer term options, one of which deals with introducing waste and facility classifications into the regulatory structure, and the other which focuses on achieving greater integration of Federal programs, agencies, and statutes concerned with hazardous waste.

The assessment was originally undertaken at the request of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The focus of the study was to be on technological

*The term "hazardous waste" means a solid waste, or combination of solid wastes, which because of its quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may-(A) cause, or signficantly contribute to an increase in mortality, or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible, illness; or (B) pose a substantial present or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, transported, or disposed of, or otherwise managed.


options for managing hazardous waste at operating facilities, technical means to address the problem of uncontrolled and possibly abandoned hazardous waste sites, and the technical adequacy of the Federal regulatory program.

OTA believes that we have provided analyses and policy options which can assist the current efforts to achieve an effective, equitable, and expeditious Federal program to protect the public from the dangers of hazardous waste. This is due in large part to the support, assistance, and cooperation received from many people representing a great diversity of viewpoints on the issues.

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