Management and Disposal of Lead-Based Paint Waste

Excerpts from "Issues Concerning the Management and Disposal of Lead-Based Paint Waste" (September, 1992), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Lead-Based Paint Waste, A Hazardous Waste?

Lead-based paint scrapings and sandblasting waste from buildings, water towers, and bridges may be a hazardous waste, according to state and federal regulations. Generators of this type of waste material are required to determine whether their waste is hazardous prior to disposal. Historically, metal-based pigments, notably lead and chromium, were used in paint mixtures. Lead was banned from use in household paints in the early 1970's, when its hazards, particularly for young children, were recognized. Lead-based paint waste is considered a hazardous waste if it fails the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for lead, which is set at 5 milligrams per liter (mg/L). This leaching procedure measures the leachable lead content of the waste and was designed to simulate landfill conditions.

Generators should use a certified laboratory to perform the TCLP test on their wastes to determine if hazardous lead levels are present. (A list of certified labs is available from the DNR). The regulations do not specifically require generators to have their waste tested. Generators also have the option of using their knowledge of the waste stream in making the determination. For example, if a contractor has other similar projects where testing of the waste was done and those waste streams were hazardous, then they could just use their knowledge to indicate that waste from other similar projects will be hazardous as well.

If my waste is hazardous for lead, which regulations need I be concerned about?

Chapters NR 600-685 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code cover the requirements for hazardous waste shipment. You are considered a very small quantity generator (VSQG) if you generate less than 220 pounds (100 kg) of waste in a calendar month, and a small quantity generator if you generate between 220 pounds (100 kg) and 2,205 pounds (1000 kg) in a month. You are required to follow the regulations in NR 610 if you fall into one of these categories. You are considered a large quantity generator (LQG) if you generate over 2,205 pounds (1000 kg) in a calendar month, and therefore are subject to the requirements of NR 615. Most water tower and bridge sandblasting jobs fall into the LQG category since the mixture of paint waste and abrasive generated is greater than 2,205 pounds (1000 kg). The use of recycled abrasive process can greatly reduce the amount of waste generated in these projects and may allow you to fall into the small quantity generator category.

What kinds of requirements are specified in the regulations? How much will proper waste treatment and disposal cost? Can I treat the waste myself?

The regulations differ for small vs. large quantity generators, with LQG standards being more extensive and complicated. The NR 600-685, Wis. Adm. Code rules require notification of both the WDNR and U.S. EPA of hazardous waste activities, including obtaining an EPA identification number for generating hazardous wastes. Additional requirements include: storage time limitations, requirements for packaging, labeling, reporting, contingency and emergency procedures, training of employees who will handle the waste and record keeping. The waste must be transported by a licensed hazardous waste hauler to an approved treatment, storage or disposal facility.

In order to meet the treatment standards specified in the land disposal restrictions (see s. NR 675.21), the wastes must be treated to reduce the amount of leachable lead to below 5 mg/L. Once the material has been treated to below the 5 mg/L level, the waste is no longer considered hazardous but must still be managed in accordance with solid waste regulations. ... You may not treat hazardous waste yourself unless you obtain a treatment license from WDNR. Obtaining the necessary approvals to treat hazardous waste is a lengthy and complicated process.

What if I'm a homeowner repainting my house? Am I subject to these regulations?

Household wastes are exempt from these hazardous waste regulations, according to NR 605.05, Wis. Adm. Code. If the work is being done by someone who is not a member of the household (i.e., a contractor), then that person or firm may be subject to the regulations, although if the waste produced can be safely managed by the homeowner as part of their household garbage, we would not require the contractor to manage the waste in accordance with the hazardous waste regulations by DNR interpretation of the household waste exclusion. The DNR recommends that homeowners have the paint on their home tested prior to removal for their own protection and that of their neighbors. Spreading tarps under the work area, refraining from working on windy days and collection and proper disposal in a licensed sanitary landfill of paint waste is strongly advised for the protection of human health and the environment.

What about commercial structures? If I'm demolishing a building containing lead-based paint, is it subject to the hazardous waste regulations?

If you or a contractor are scraping or sandblasting lead-based paint off a structure, you are required to determine whether the waste is hazardous. In many cases, this will result in testing the waste for lead content and any other suspected TCLP contaminants. If the waste contains lead or any of the other seven metals, five pesticides or 25 organic substances regulated under the TCLP rule at levels determined to be hazardous (see s. NR 605.07(5)(b)), then you must follow the state's hazardous waste regulations cited above. However, if you are demolishing a structure that contains lead-based paint, the state does not consider your construction and demolition debris to be a hazardous waste and you are not subject to the regulations. You must, however, follow the state's solid waste regulations and dispose of the debris in a licensed sanitary landfill.

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Updated August 8, 2007