Residential Construction Contractor's Guide

#8 - Hazardous Materials

Waste minimization (also called pollution prevention or source reduction) is the best way to curb your hazardous waste generation and reduce potential liability. Minimizing waste involves good housekeeping practices, employee training, process modifications, or substitution of a non-hazardous material for a hazardous one. Examples include:

  • Minimizing your supply of raw materials to prevent overstocking
  • Adopting a "first-in, first-out" inventory policy
  • Labeling waste containers properly to avoid mixing incompatible wastes or contaminating clean materials
  • Controlling access to storage areas and routinely inspecting containers (received containers that are leaking or damaged should be rejected)
  • Maintaining vehicles and equipment at a central location, preferably in a garage or maintenance facility--not on the construction site
  • Training employees to use equipment properly

You may often not be aware of hazardous wastes you generate, but it is your responsibility to identify and separate hazardous wastes from non-hazardous wastes. Hazardous wastes commonly generated during construction activities include paints, solvents, adhesives, caulks, pesticides, wood preservatives, oil, or stored materials (such as solvents or pesticides) that have exceeded their shelf life.

Problems associated with hazardous wastes include:

  • They can pollute the land, air, or water, or endanger human health and animal safety.
  • Septic systems can be ruined from contamination by hazardous waste.
  • Disposing of hazardous waste with nonhazardous waste (trash) is detrimental to solid waste collection systems, causes problems at landfills, poses a potential health threat to workers, and is illegal in many areas.
  • Improper disposal of hazardous waste can lead to costly cleanups. Under federal and state law, businesses are liable for improper hazardous waste disposal and hazardous waste spills or releases.


  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HMTA)
  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Superfund Amendment Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title 3
  • 40 CFR 260-279 Federal regulations on hazardous waste management.
  • 40 CFR, Section 301 et seq. Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). A person with designated types of hazardous substances must provide local governments and the public with information about the substance and make an assessment of how it affects the environment.

Reuse and Recycle

Reusing materials saves you money by extending the useful life of your materials and by reducing waste. You should always try to reuse your wastes before you opt to recycle them. A possible option for reusing even your hazardous wastes are Material Exchange Programs. See Section 7-Solid Waste for more information about the ME programs.

When you can't reuse a material, recycling is the next best option. Recycling facilities and waste exchanges provide opportunities to transform a waste into another useful product. 

Best Pollution Prevention Practices


Maximize the useful life of materials before discarding them.


  • Use solvents such as mineral spirits and paint thinners more than once. Reusing thinner as a wash thinner to clean equipment reduces waste as well as the costs for raw materials or disposal.
  • Keep lids closed to prevent product loss through evaporation.
  • Use up or reuse all leftover paint.
  • Recycle as many materials as possible. Check to see if there is a waste exchange in your community.

Hazardous Waste Determination

Determining the type and quantity of hazardous waste you generate makes it easier to see where wastes can be minimized. Reducing the amount of hazardous waste you generate reduces your regulatory burden and saves you money.

The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), published by a manufacturer for each product, can help you determine whether the waste produced could be hazardous. See the content under Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in Section 3-Employee Health & Safety for more information.


  • 40 CFR 261 Federal regulations and standards on hazardous waste identification.

Characteristic Wastes
A waste may be considered hazardous if it exhibits one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Ignitability - a liquid with a flash point below 140ºF (solvents, mineral spirits, etc.)
  • Corrosivity - a water-based liquid with a pH of less than or equal to 2.0 or a pH of greater than or equal to 12.5 (battery acid, alkaline cleaning solvents, etc.)
  • Reactivity - an unstable substance that readily undergoes violent chemical reactions with water or other substances (hydrogen sulfide, bleach, etc.)
  • Toxicity - a harmful substance due to the presence of metals or organic compounds (lead paint, adhesives, etc.)

Listed Wastes
A waste can also be considered hazardous if it appears on any one of four lists of hazardous wastes contained in the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations  These wastes contain toxic constituents that have been found to be harmful to human health and the environment.

  • F-Listed Wastes - waste derived from nonspecific sources. Examples include certain halogenated solvents used in degreasing (tetrachloroethylene and methylene chloride) and nonhalogenated solvents (xylene and acetone).
  • K-Listed Wastes - waste derived from specific manufacturing processes (wastewater treatment sludge from the production of certain inorganic pigments, etc.).
  • P-Listed (Acute) and U-Listed Wastes - wastes that are discarded toxic chemical products or off-specification products and residues whose sole active ingredient is a listed waste. Acute (P-Listed) wastes are determined by EPA to be so dangerous that they are regulated more stringently than the previously mentioned hazardous waste (certain pesticides such as 2,4-D).

Potentially Exempt Wastes
Specific wastes may be exempt from state and federal hazardous waste regulations. Be aware, however, that even though these wastes are not subject to hazardous waste regulations, they are managed under other state or federal regulations. Potentially exempt wastes include:

  • Spent lead-acid batteries that will be sent off-site for reclamation-- regulated as solid waste. 
  • Scrap metal that is to be recycled--regulated as solid waste under ARM.
  • Asbestos that is to be disposed of--regulated as a hazardous air pollutant under the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)--regulated as a toxic substance by the EPA under the Toxic Substance Control Act.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)--if used for refrigerants and destined for recycling, regulated as a volatile organic compound by EPA under the Clean Air Act. Nonrefrigerant CFCs are not exempt from hazardous waste requirements.

Universal Wastes

Universal Wastes are hazardous wastes destined for recycling not disposal. You may encounter Universal Wastes during remodeling.  Examples covered under the federal Universal Waste Rule include:

  • Spent, hazardous waste batteries other than lead-acid batteries
  • Suspended or canceled hazardous waste pesticides that are subject to a recall or are part of a waste pesticide collection program
  • Mercury-containing thermostats
  • Spent electric lamps (tubes or bulbs) that are hazardous due to heavy metals.


  • 40 CFR 273, Subparts A-G Definitions and Universal Waste management regulations.


  • U.S. EPA Regional Operations Office

Hazardous Waste Generator Status

If you generate hazardous waste, determining the amount enables you to define your generator status and dispose of your waste properly for regulatory compliance.

Your generator status depends on how much hazardous waste you accumulate per calendar month. Calculate waste quantities in either pounds (lbs) or kilograms (kgs). The MSDS for each product should have conversion information to help you convert liquids to pounds or kilograms. Your generator status can change each month, so it is very important to keep good records.

There are three types of hazardous waste generators:

  • Conditionally Exempt Generator (CEG) - generates no more than 220 lbs (100 kgs), or about 25 gallons, of hazardous waste or no more than 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of acute hazardous waste in any calendar month.
  • Small Generator (SG) - generates between 220 lbs and 2,200 lbs (100 kgs -1,000 kgs) of hazardous waste or no more than 2.2 lbs (1kg) of acute hazardous waste in any calendar month.
  • Large Generator (LG) - generates 2,200 lbs (1,000 kgs) or more of hazardous waste or more than 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of acute hazardous waste in any calendar month.

Regulatory requirements for CEGs are less stringent than those for either SGs or LGs. Your goal should be to meet CEG requirements every month.

CEG Hazardous Waste Management
Waste management for CEGs includes:

  • Identify all regulated hazardous wastes generated.
  • Limit the amount of regulated hazardous waste generated in any month to less than 220 lbs (100 kg).
  • CEGs do not have waste container labeling or accumulation time limit requirements unless they accumulate more than 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of hazardous waste. If CEGs accumulate more than 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg), they will lose their CEG status and have to meet SG or LG requirements for waste disposal.
  • Avoid generating more than 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of acute hazardous waste. If more than 2.2 lbs (1 kg) are produced, CEGs will lose their exempt status and have to meet LG requirements for waste disposal.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste at one of the following facilities:
    • A legitimate recycling facility.
    • A permitted treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) facility.
    • A wastewater treatment plant in accordance with local and state water quality regulations and only if the facility owner/operator has approved.
    • A licensed Class II (municipal) solid waste management facility in accordance with state solid waste management regulations, only if the waste is a solid waste and with prior approval of the facility owner/operator.

Reporting Requirements 
Reporting requirements and fees vary depending on your generator status you may have to submit reports to the appropriate agency in your state, fees may also apply:

  • CEGs are not required to obtain an EPA Identification Number, although it is recommended in case your generator status changes to a SG or LG for any given month. 
  • SGs or LGs must report the quantity of waste generated annually  and obtain a U.S. EPA Identification Number.
  • SGs and LGs must manifest all hazardous waste sent off-site.


  • 40 CFR 262.34, and ARM 17.54.403 Federal and state regulations on EPA identification numbers and registration for hazardous waste generators.


Toxics Use Reduction Plans
Contractors who are SGs and LGs should develop plans that help reduce the amount of toxic substances they use and the amount of hazardous waste they generate.  While you may not  be required by law to develop these plans, they may help you establish new ways to minimize your handling of hazardous waste and might even allow you to drop your generator status from a SG or LG to a less stringent CEG status.

Disposal of Hazardous Waste

Always dispose of hazardous wastes through a reliable hazardous waste management company or Treatment, Storage, and Disposal (TSD) facility. The MSU Extension Service at (406) 994-3451 distributes two helpful fact sheets: A Checklist for Selecting a Hazardous Waste Transporter and Choosing a Hazardous Waste Management Facility.

Transportation and disposal of hazardous waste may include:

  • CEGs can take their wastes to a landfill that will accept them.
  • SGs and LGs have to have their wastes hauled to a TSD facility.
  • Make arrangements for a TSD facility or an authorized hazardous waste transportation company to transport your hazardous wastes to the facility.
  • SGs and LGs are required to obtain an EPA Identification Number for hazardous waste transported to a TSD facility (see Reporting Requirements and Fees earlier in this section for more information about EPA Identification Numbers).
  • A manifest is required for every shipment of hazardous waste to track the waste from its point of generation to its final destination.  Manifests and waste analysis records must be maintained for at least 3 years.


  • 49 CFR Parts 171-179 U.S. Department of Transportation regulations on transporting hazardous materials.

Best Pollution Prevention Practices


Properly manage hazardous wastes.


  • Oil- and water-based paints - Leave excess paint with the property owner for touch-ups. Let small amounts of paint solidify, then take to a licensed Class II landfill.
  • Used oils - Recycle if possible. It is illegal to spill or apply oil on the ground (as for dust or weed suppression). Waste oil is different from used oil, which has been refined from crude oil and used. Waste oil is basically crude oil, the by-product of an oil field operation, and has not been used. As a contractor or designer, you should not come in contact with waste oil. Never place used oil in a dumpster or pour it on the ground. Never bury used oil or mix it with solvents or water. Never pour it down a sink, sanitary sewer, septic system, or storm drain.
  • Sealers - Use leftover sealer at another site. Determine if waste is hazardous.
  • Degreasers (such as mineral spirits, paint thinners, and chlorinated solvents) - Allow paint thinners to settle, then strain and reuse the liquid. Store the solids in a leak-proof container. When the solvent can no longer be reused, dispose of it through a hazardous waste management facility. Both the solvent and solids may be hazardous wastes. Water-based degreasers may also be hazardous waste due to the metals they may have collected.
  • Pesticides and herbicides - Unless the product has been banned, use up according to the directions. Triple-rinse containers before disposal and apply the rinse water as you would apply the product. Otherwise, dispose of it through a hazardous waste management facility. If the product has been banned, it is illegal to use and may require being disposed of as a hazardous waste. Some pesticide and herbicide manufacturers will take back the banned product for proper disposal.
  • Vehicle batteries - Recycle if possible. If not, they must be managed as a hazardous waste. Take batteries to a retailer that sells lead-acid batteries, a solid waste facility that accepts auto batteries, or to a licensed recycler. Contact DEQ for more information. Do not dispose of vehicle batteries in the trash.
  • Petroleum products (such as waste gasoline, diesel, or kerosene) - If it has been determined to be hazardous, then reuse, recycle, or manage it as a hazardous waste. Can possibly use in equipment such as lawnmowers.

Additional Requirements

Be aware there are many additional federal and state regulations for the management of hazardous waste that are not listed in this document. These requirements vary depending on a your generator status and location.

Spill Reporting and Cleanup

A critical step in pollution prevention is recognizing when a problem arises and acting quickly. For example, a spill of a hazardous material can pollute the air, water, or soil. Therefore, several federal and state laws require you to report a spill or release of hazardous waste. All spills and releases must then be cleaned up immediately. Requirements for cleaning spills or releases vary with the material. You should become familiar with spill and cleanup procedures for the materials you use (see MSDS for product assistance).

Spill Reporting
When a spill occurs, the proper authorities must be notified. Below is a guide for determining whether a spill should be characterized as a crisis and, if so, what agency to notify.

Crisis Spills (and Agency to Notify)

  • Serious emergency such as an accident involving a hazardous material resulting in death, hospitalization, or property damage in excess of $50,000
    • Depending on the circumstances of your situation, notify as many of the following agencies as possible: National Response Center at (800) 424-8802, or Local Fire Department
  • Spills that affect human health or the environment
    • Notify local Disaster Emergency Services, Local law enforcement 
  • Oil, Hydrocarbon, or hazardous chemical spills
    • Notify local Disaster Emergency Services or Local Sheriff's Office
  • Extreme flooding
    • Notify Disaster Emergency Services 
  • Leaking underground storage tank
    • State Environmental Agency
  • Fish or wildlife kills
    • Notify State Wildlife Agency

Complaint Reporting
There are times you may encounter situations that are not as serious as those described above, but still warrant notification of the proper authorities. Complaints of spills or other environmental harms are lodged both by and against contractors for such things as:

  • Dirty or turbid water
  • Erosion or sedimentation
  • Algae blooms
  • Debris and litter problems
  • Animal waste
  • Sewage overflows

Anyone responsible for a spill or release of a deleterious (harmful) material is required to take action to clean up the spill or release.  Cleanup must employ the best available methods to achieve the lowest practicable level of contamination.  Cleanup might involve such steps as the removal of contaminated soil, the use of absorbent material to soak up spills, or the aeration of the soil.


  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA)
  • 40 CFR 304 Federal law for spill reporting for hazardous materials
  • Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HMTA)
  • Clean Water Act (CWA)
  • Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)


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