DEQ Values in Action: Exceptional Service

By Jared Mendenhall

Hazardous waste

In the mid-2000s, two entrepreneurial college students unknowingly purchased a large amount of hazardous waste.

The mess, pun intended, started in the mid-2000s. This is when two entrepreneurial college students bought a metal plating company in Northern Utah. Along with the company they unknowingly purchased a large amount of hazardous waste.

The problem came to their attention a few years later during a routine inspection from Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC).

“In 2009, two inspectors from our division went up there and did an inspection,” explains Tom Ball, an environmental engineer with WMRC. “The inspectors found a number of areas where they were in violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Rules. Based on the number noncompliance violations that we found, we issued a Notice of Violation ordering them to come into compliance.”

By late 2010, it appeared that the company had come in to compliance. On the next visit, however, inspectors found many of the same conditions still existed.

The WMRC team regrouped in Salt Lake City to discuss a solution. The last Notice of Violation had only achieved a short period of compliance. Real human-health concerns still existed on the site.

Ball explains the jam theses regulators faced, “Issuing another Notice of Violation would just do the same thing. Issuing a monetary penalty would put them out of business.”

The engineers, scientists and staff at DEQ are public servants. Their mission is to safeguard Utah’s air, land and water through balanced regulation. They try to be fair. They look for sane solutions to complex issues.

The team wanted to give the company a real opportunity to remedy the situation without losing the business. Soon, a solution emerged. The team would devise a compliance-assistance and education plan.

First, the team would train the company in the Hazardous Waste Generator Regulations—rules that govern industries to ensure the protection of human health and the environment. Through this training, the company learned how to manage its waste and what chemicals were potentially hazardous.

“Based on the work we did with them, they were able to determine that of the 30 totes of waste at the facility, only 6 of them fell under the hazardous waste regulations and needed to be managed as hazardous waste,” says Ball.

Hazardous waste

Working with Utah DEQ, the owners were able to determine which totes contained hazardous waste and come up with a plan to clean it up.

This significantly reduced the size of the problem.

Next, the WMRC team set up a schedule of monthly compliance visits. This allowed regulators to stay on top of compliance efforts and address any new issues.

In the end, DEQ’s commitment to excellent service produced a win-win solution for the environment, the company and the community.

“What this means is that this company is not contaminating the environment. They are not polluting. They are not causing problems for their neighbors. They are properly managing their waste.” Ball explains. “And, they are also still a viable part of the economy in the area. They are still buying goods and selling goods and remaining a part of that economy.”

If your company needs help understanding hazardous waste regulations, visit the Waste Management and Radiation Control website. Here you will find guidance documents and links to regulations and rules. You will also find links to upcoming trainings. These trainings are available at no charge to generators.

I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.