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UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460



MAR 7 1984

Mr. Dick Bruner
Executive Director
Technical and Logistics Services (DLA-S)
Defense Logistics Agency
Cameron Station
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

Dear Mr. Bruner:

____________________________________________________________________________
Faxback 11033

The inherently reactive nature of lithium-sulfur dioxide batteries was, in fact, demonstrated by a fire at the Groton Point landfill in Groton, Connecticut on April 20, 1981. In that incident, a number of drums of lithium-sulfur dioxide batteries, which were improperly handled, caught fire due either to short circuiting or contact with moisture. The fire resulted in a number of violent ruptures as well as the generation of toxic gases and fumes which posed a hazard to personnel combating the fire.

The Agency recognizes that the degree of hazard posed by lithium battery cells depends upon a large number of variables including: the quantity of cells accumulated in one location and the condition of the cells (e.g., whether they have vented, are partially depleted, fully discharged, of the balanced or unbalanced type, etc.)

the procedures used in storing, transporting, disposing, or otherwise handling spent or discarded batteries.

the proximity of workers or the general public to the batteries.

Due to the variable nature of the hazards posed by lithium batteries under different conditions, the Agency had considered whether it was feasible to establish accumulation levels below which quantities of lithium batteries would not be considered reactive and, therefore, not subject to the hazardous waste regulations. However, the Agency does not believe that there is sufficient information available at this time to reasonably establish such exemption levels specifically for lithium batteries.

The Agency's conclusion that lithium-sulfur dioxide batteries exhibit the characteristic of reactivity does not affect the applicability of other provisions of the hazardous waste regulations. Of specific interest to DOD may be S261.5, which conditionally exempts from hazardous waste regulation all hazardous wastes from generators that do not generate more than 1000 kg. per month of hazardous waste or accumulate more than 1000 kg. of such waste at any time.2/ However, you should be aware that when calculating the quantity of waste generated for purposes of assessing small quantity generator status, all hazardous wastes from all sources that are generated at a particular site3/ in a one-month period or which are accumulated over any period of time must be counted. You should also be aware that Congress is currently considering amendments to RCRA that would lower the small quantity generator exemption level to l00 kg.

As mentioned previously, the practical effect of the Agency's conclusion that lithium batteries are reactive wastes is that regulated quantities of these batteries may not be disposed of at most hazardous waste land disposal facilities. Sections 264.312 and 265.312 prohibit landfilling of reactive wastes unless they are treated, rendered, or mixed such that they no longer exhibit the characteristic of reactivity and unless the general requirements for reactive wastes contained in 264.17 (b) and 265.17 (b) have been met.

If you have any questions about the information contained in this letter, please do not hesitate to contact either Francine Jacoff or Robert Axelrad, of my staff at (202) 382-4761.
Sincerely yours,
/s/ Jack W. McGraw

Lee M. Thomas
Assistant Administrator



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2/'Acute hazardous' wastes are subject to a I kg. exemption level for quantities generated in a one-month period of accumu-lated over any period of time. As a characteristic hazardous waste, lithium batteries are subject to the 1000 kg. exemption level.

3/See 5260.10 definitions for 'individual generation site' and 'on-site'.