Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984

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Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984

Eugene H. Robinson, Jr.

Excerpt from the Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments

The Congress hereby declares it to be the national policy of the United States that, wherever feasible, the generation of hazardous waste is to be reduced or eliminated as expeditiously as possible. Waste that is nevertheless generated should be treated, stored, or disposed of so as to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment.

The Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments of 1984 (HSWA) (P.L. 98-616, 98 Stat. 3221) became law on November 8, 1984, when signed by President Ronald Reagan. The HSWA amended the Solid Waste Disposal Act of 1965 (SWDA), as amended by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). In general, both the scope and requirements of the SWDA, as amended by RCRA, were significantly expanded and reinforced.

Proponents maintained that the HSWA was needed due to various loopholes in the SWDA, as amended by RCRA. For example, loopholes allowed approximately forty million metric tons of hazardous waste to escape control annually through the unregulated burning and blending of hazardous waste for energy recovery and allowed small-quantity generators (up to 1,000 kilograms per month) of hazardous waste to dispose of their wastes in municipal landfills and city sewer systems.

The debate on the HSWA lasted over two-and-a-half years. Much of that debate centered on several provisions that required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take certain action by specific dates, which, if not met, would require remedies crafted by Congress to take effect. Although the bill that passed was introduced by a Democrat, the final product was the result of work by members of both major political parties and in both houses of Congress who were frustrated with the EPA's slow pace in implementing RCRA. The work focused on section-by-section changes rather than another complete revision, as had been done with RCRA. The extensive legislative history reflects the amount of detailand compromisethat went into formulating the HSWA.

The HSWA was enacted largely in response to the public's vocal opposition to existing hazardous waste disposal practices that were perceived as being harmful to human health and the environment. Accordingly, the HSWA, like the SWDA as amended by RCRA, strives to engage the entire socio-economic spectrum in the regulatory process. Of the more than seventy major provisions, over fifty required EPA action within the first year of enactment. Some of the changes brought about through HSWA include:

  • Creation of the Land Disposal Restrictions Program
  • Establishment of RCRA Corrective Action requirements
  • Establishment of permitting deadlines for hazardous waste facilities
  • Regulation of small-quantity generators of hazardous waste
  • Requirement for a nationwide survey of the conditions at solid waste landfills

The changes required by HSWA led to such things as:

  • Establishment of treatment standards to prevent disposal of untreated wastes into and onto the land
  • Permitting of more than 900 hazardous waste management facilities
  • Establishment of a strong criminal enforcement program
  • The closing of substandard landfills and incinerators No significant amendments to the HSWA have been adopted. The HSWA remains incorporated within the SWDA, as amended by RCRA, and the three combined acts are generally referred to as RCRA.

See also: Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; Solid Waste Disposal Act; Toxic Substances Control Act.


Hall, Ridgeway M., Jr.; Robert C. Davis, Jr.; Richard E. Swartz, et al. RCRA Hazardous Wastes Handbook, 12th ed. Rockville, MD: Government Institutes, Inc., 2001.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "25 Years of RCRA: Building on Our Past to Protect Our Future." July 2003. <http://www.epa.gov/>.