Stuart L. Spencer
Arkansas Environmental, Energy, and Water Law
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) published a December 30th Federal Register Notice reissuing a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Land Disposal Restriction exemption to Great Lakes Chemical Corporation (“Great Lakes”) for two hazardous waste injection wells located at its El Dorado, Arkansas facility
Great Lakes submitted an Underground Injection Control Program no migration petition application and documentation to EPA supporting the request.
EPA determined that to a reasonable degree there will be no migration of hazardous constituents from the injection zone as long as the waste remains hazardous. The exemption authorizes Great Lakes to inject specific restricted hazardous wastes into the two hazardous waste injection wells until December 31, 2026.
EPA regulates the construction, operation, permitting, and closure of injection wells used to place fluids underground for storage or disposal.
Class I wells are used to inject hazardous and non-hazardous wastes into deep, confined rock formations. They are typically drilled thousands of feet below the lowermost underground source of drinking water. Approximately 800 operational Class I wells exist in the United States.
Examples of industries that use Class I wells include:
- Petroleum refining
- Metal production
- Chemical production
- Pharmaceutical production
- Commercial disposal
- Food production
- Municipal wastewater treatment
Based upon the characteristics of the fluids injected, Class I wells fall into one of four subcategories.
- Hazardous waste disposal wells
- Non-hazardous industrial waste disposal wells
- Municipal wastewater disposal wells
- Radioactive waste disposal wells
Industry injects hazardous waste through Class I wells, as defined by RCRA. Class I wells are strictly regulated under RCRA and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Construction, permitting, operating, and monitoring requirements are more stringent for Class I hazardous waste disposal wells than for other Class I injection well categories.
The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (“HSWA”) to RCRA prohibit land disposal of restricted hazardous waste. The prohibition includes injection of hazardous waste into Class I wells.
The HSWA Amendments include a provision that allows an operator to petition the EPA Administrator for an exemption to the land disposal prohibition. The exemption requires the operator to demonstrate that there will be no migration of hazardous constituents from the injection zone for as long as the wastes remain hazardous.
The length of time required for the demonstration has been defined in the regulations as 10,000 years. The formal demonstration has become known as a Class I no migration petition. The approval process for the no migration petition requires a signature by a regional EPA Administrator, or his or her designee.
The public comment period closed on EPA’s exemption reissuance decision for the Great Lakes El Dorado, Arkansas site on November 22, 2019. No comments were received.