Engineer explains agency’s new hazardous waste compliance assistance program
By Lesia Winiarskyj
Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has developed an outreach program—COMPASS—to help businesses comply with Connecticut’s hazardous waste regulations. Ross Bunnell, an engineer and 25-year veteran with DEEP’s hazardous waste program, explains.
First of all, what is ‘hazardous’ waste?
Hazardous wastes include wastes that are flammable, corrosive, reactive, toxic, or specifically listed due to certain hazardous properties and that require special handling and disposal. Examples include residues from industrial wastewater treatment, spent process solutions, solvent and paint-related wastes, and old or unused chemicals. Hazardous wastes also include some fairly common items, like fluorescent lamps, mercury thermostats, batteries, and computers and other electronic equipment, all of which can contain toxic metals.
Tell us about COMPASS.
COMPASS, short for “compliance assistance,” is a program DEEP created to help businesses stay in compliance with hazardous waste regulations. We’ve posted fact sheets, guidance manuals, and other key information and set up a toll-free compliance assistance hotline, 888.424.4193, where folks can get answers to specific questions. Also—and this is of particular interest to businesses—we offer free compliance assistance audits.
What happens during an audit?
We come out to companies and determine whether their wastes are hazardous, what requirements they may need to comply with, and even whether and how they can reduce or eliminate the hazardous waste that they generate. It’s free advice and assistance from our inspection staff—without enforcement action or fines levied. You can schedule a visit, which includes a walk-through and tour of your facility, a review of your operations and manufacturing processes, and an evaluation of wastes generated and on-site documentation, such as shipping records, hazardous waste determinations, and waste profiles. Anyone who wants to set this up should call us [or click here].
What types of businesses should know about COMPASS?
Really, almost any company that generates hazardous waste. This could be a large manufacturer, a neighborhood autobody shop, or a business of just about any size in between. If a company generates wastes as a result of their operations, there’s a good chance at least one of those wastes could be hazardous.
What advice do you have for businesses and other entities that are new to these requirements?
There’s a section of DEEP’s website called “RCRA Help!” that provides step-by-step guidance for those who are new to hazardous waste requirements. RCRA stands for Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the law that established the requirements for properly managing hazardous waste.
Does COMPASS help with requirements other than hazardous waste?
Sure—businesses that generate hazardous waste often are subject to other environmental requirements, such as solid waste and recycling, wastewater discharge, and air pollution regulations. The staff at DEEP’s hazardous waste program has experience with these requirements, so we may be able to help with them as well.
What has been the business response to COMPASS?
Literally thousands of Connecticut companies have accessed our materials or called our hotline. We’ve also performed free audits for numerous facilities. We’re finding that businesses are very pleased with the level of site-specific help they get—not only to comply with requirements but also to reduce or eliminate the hazardous waste they generate and save money on disposal costs. If companies can easily get the compliance information they need, they can save staff time, lower their costs for waste management, and even in some cases, save on material and energy.
Have businesses helped shape COMPASS?
Definitely. After developing the program, we knew we needed input from potential users. So we created a stakeholder group called the Hazardous Waste Advisory Committee. This group put together recommendations for improving our program—and an implementation schedule.
What were some of their recommendations?
They suggested holding meetings a few times a year to provide free training and a forum for agency staff and the business community to discuss and collaborate on key hazardous waste issues. They also asked for an interactive, computer-based compliance assistance program, which we’re calling “iCOMPASS.” It would involve users going online and answering a series of questions about the hazardous waste activities at their site. Based on their answers, iCOMPASS would generate a detailed report about hazardous waste requirements that apply to them. Basically, it would work a lot like the tax preparation software that people use. It could also be designed to link to relevant topics and required forms at DEEP’s website.
What’s the status of iCOMPASS?
We’re still gathering feedback from those who handle and manage hazardous waste. We’re asking what they want out of a Web-based program like iCOMPASS, and we’re eager to hear from CBIA member companies about their preferences. We’ve developed a simple, 12-question survey businesses can take to help guide us. ■
Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer and editor at CBIA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.