NJDEP Modifies Regulated Waste Rules Due To COVID-19 Crisis

COVID-19 Update

April 22, 2020
Bruce S. Katcher and Austin W. Manning
MGKF NewsFlash

On April 9 and 13, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) invoked its authority under Executive Order No. 103 (E.O. 103) to modify a number of the State’s rules regulating waste including the Regulated Medical Waste rules, as well as the Solid and Hazardous Waste rules. The Executive Order grants NJDEP the broad authority to waive, suspend, or modify any existing rule, notwithstanding the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act or contrary law, in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Specifically, the Regulated Medical Waste rules have been relaxed so as to relieve any new facility that generates regulated medical waste from the requirement to formally register with NJDEP pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:26-3A.6. Generators must still comply with informal registration requirements and the modification is only in effect for the duration of the emergency. Therefore, if a facility continues to generate regulated medical waste after the expiration of E.O. 103, it must then comply with the formal registration requirements. Generators of solid wastes that may be subject to this rule not only include hospitals and test centers, but also nursing homes, home health aides, and commercial cleaning companies working in facilities where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Further, NJDEP acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding social distancing may impact the ability of private and public entities to perform the full range of waste management services. Therefore, the Department will consider waiver, suspension, or relaxation of the Solid Waste rules (N.J.A.C. 7:26), Recycling rules (N.J.A.C. 7:26A), Hazardous Waste rules (N.J.A.C. 7:26G), and Solid Waste Utility Regulations (N.J.A.C. 7:26H), on a case-by-case and site-specific basis based on criteria outlined in the action invoking the waiver authority. This includes waiver of various operating requirements, reporting obligations and waste flow requirements.  If a waiver is granted, it will be done so only when necessary to address circumstances directly related to the COVID-19 crisis and for a limited duration.

It should be noted that the above rule modifications do not lessen the special requirements for handling and storage of regulated medical waste and facilities must still meet the minimum requirements. Nor do they modify any specific solid or hazardous waste rules – waivers must still be sought on an individual basis.  If you have any questions about these waste rules or their modifications, please contact either Bruce Katcher (484-430-2320) or Austin Manning (484-430-2334).

April 22, 2020 Update
To further supplement the above, on April 21, 2020, NJDEP released additional guidance concerning the potential waiver of rules for solid waste and recycling collectors, transporters, collection facilities, intermediate handlers, and destination facilities. The Department acknowledged that circumstances related to COVID-19 may require adjustments of operational limits and discretionary allowances such as increased tonnages, modified operating hours, and extended storage times. It also indicated that it would consider requests for electronic submissions of permit-related paperwork (e.g., hazardous waste manifests, medical waste tracking forms, origin and destination forms) in an effort to reduce personal contact; however, requests for waiver or modification of any regulatory requirements must still be submitted on a case-by-case basis and receive Department written approval.