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BP's Oil Waste Exempt From Being Listed As 'Hazardous Waste'

The 1988 federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) exempts oil exploration and production waste from hazardous handling standards. However, EPA acknowledges that "although [oiled debris] are relieved from regulation as hazardous wastes, the exemption does not mean these wastes could not present a hazard to human health and the environment if improperly managed." BP's waste plans call for the company to test its trash weekly and that EPA is also conducting its own twice-monthly assessments. If the waste is determined to be hazardous, it will be sent to a designated hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facility.

The Coast Guard and EPA followed up with a June 29 directive giving BP five days to produce a waste tracking plan that included the online release of its trash testing results. The only waste sampling data on the company's website, however, are a sample analysis (pdf) for 14 chemicals and a summary (pdf) of the volumes of trash generated in each category. According to EPA, subjecting oiled trash to hazardous disposal or storage standards "would triple or quadruple the cost" of clean up. (NYT, 7/20/2010)