Frequent Questions

How is contaminated environmental media regulated under the contained-in policy?

The contained-in policy is a more flexible version of the mixture and derived-from rules that applies to contaminated environmental media. EPA uses the term environmental media to describe soil, sediments, and ground water (61 FR 18780, 18783; April 29, 1996). Environmental media are usually contaminated through accidental spills of hazardous waste or spills of product chemicals that, when spilled, become hazardous wastes. Environmental media is not inherently a solid or hazardous waste and, generally, is not subject to regulation under RCRA. Environmental media that are contaminated can become subject to regulation under RCRA if they “contain” hazardous waste (Management of Remediation Waste Under RCRA; October 14, 1998 (RCRA Online #14291)). 

EPA’s contained-in policy states that environmental media contaminated with a hazardous waste must be managed as if they were hazardous wastes until they no longer contain the listed waste, no longer exhibit a characteristic, or are delisted. In order for environmental media contaminated with a listed waste to no longer be considered hazardous, the handler of that media must demonstrate to EPA's or the authorized State's satisfaction that the media no longer poses a sufficient health threat to merit RCRA regulation. EPA has not issued guidelines as to when or at what levels environmental media contaminated with hazardous wastes are no longer considered to contain those hazardous wastes. The levels for media are most appropriately determined on a site-specific basis by the EPA Region or authorized State overseeing the cleanup of such materials under Superfund response actions or RCRA corrective action. These levels are generally determined by the implementing agency according to risk (57 FR 958, 986; January 9, 1992). 

Additional guidance on the contained-in policy is available in the following documents: 
Memo, Shapiro to Wright; September 15, 1995 (RCRA Online #11948 )
Memo, Lowrance to Warren; October 15, 1992 (RCRA Online #13568
Memo, Lowrance to Ely; March 26, 1991 (RCRA Online #11593
Memo, Cannon to Jorling; June 19, 1989 (RCRA Online #11434
Memo, Lowrance to Bentsen; May 23, 1989 (RCRA Online #13287

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