EPA Stakeholder Meetings on Hazardous Waste Derived Fertilizers | Region 10 | US EPA

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EPA Stakeholder Meetings on Hazardous Waste Derived Fertilizers

  1. Lack of sufficient data on organic contaminants, such as dioxins
  2. Lack of data on certain heavy metals such as vanadium
  3. Only risks from individual fertilizer products are being assessed; cumulative risks from multiple fertilizer usage (e.g., NPK and zinc fertilizers) should be assessed.
  4. Risks are being assessed only for individual pathways, and do not consider additivity effects (e.g., fertilizer exposure risks combined with risks from occupational and indoor exposures).

    In the absence of more complete studies and analyses, EPA should take a very conservative approach to regulating recycling of industrial wastes to make fertilizers. Several participants suggested that EPA should undertake a number of specific short-term regulatory actions, while working on longer-term studies to address the deficiencies that they identified. Such near-term actions should include:
  • Ban the use of high risk hazardous wastes that are currently being used to make fertilizer. Such wastes would include any that contain dioxins (K061 was cited as an example of such a waste).
  • Set standards for hazardous waste derived fertilizers (including those marketed for consumer use) based on a no degradation goal. It was suggested that national background concentration levels could be used to establish these standards.
  • Require labeling of fertilizers that identify the concentration levels of all contaminants in the product, whether the product was made from recycled industrial wastes, and what the wastes were. The participants suggested that less stringent (e.g., meets applicable standards) labeling requirements would not satisfy the consumer’s right to know principle.
  • Establish detailed reporting requirements for generators and manufacturers who engage in recycling of hazardous wastes in general, and in particular, recycling for fertilizers. Such reporting requirements would help to control sham recycling by industry.
  • Eliminate the current (Bevill) exemption for hazardous mining wastes that are used to make fertilizers.

    One participant also suggested that EPA should combine these regulatory actions with broader efforts that would encourage industry to reduce the levels of contaminants in their waste streams. At least one participant also expressed the view that EPA should regulate all industrial wastes that are used in fertilizer manufacture, rather than only hazardous wastes.

    In response to these suggestions, EPA representatives noted that there may be questions as to the Agency’s legal authority under RCRA to require labeling of fertilizer products, or to regulate non-hazardous industrial wastes used to make fertilizer.

    EPA should not adopt the Canadian or 503 biosolids standards for hazardous waste derived fertilizers. As noted above, the participants expressed a strong preference for standards (i.e., maximum allowable contaminant concentrations) based on a no degradation or background concept. The consensus of the participants was that the Canadian fertilizer standards are not sufficiently protective, and the 503 standards would be even less so. Of primary concern to the participants was the fact that the Canadian standards allow for some increase in the levels of metals in agricultural soils over time due to fertilizer applications, and that this is inconsistent with their preference for a zero degradation standard. Another concern is that the Canadian standards are based on yearly application of fertilizers over a 45-year period, which they considered to be an arbitrary time frame that may understate the long term effects of fertilizer use. Other concerns voiced were potential enforcement problems (e.g., manufacturers might simply be able to change suggested application rates to meet the standards), and the fact that the standards do not account for yearly applications of more than one type of fertilizer.

    The participants did not believe that the fertilizer risk assessment recently developed by the State of California should be used by EPA to set standards, since that study addressed a limited number of metal contaminants and a limited number of products, and used a 10-5 standard for lifetime excess cancer risk (rather than a 10-6 standard).

    Current RCRA regulations on management of hazardous wastes prior to recycling for fertilizer should be maintained. The consensus of the participants was that the current use constituting disposal regulations that require hazardous fertilizer ingredients to be managed as hazardous wastes should be maintained.

    Meeting with State Regulatory Agency Stakeholders - 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, November 13, 1998

    Main discussion points:
  • Need for nationally consistent, risk-based standards. Most of the participants expressed support for EPA fertilizer standards that are nationally consistent and risk-based, though there was some diversity of opinion with regard to how those objectives should be achieved. A number of participants observed that the states are looking to EPA for leadership in this area, since it is very difficult for states to develop defensible standards on their own, and a lack of federal standards could lead to a counterproductive regulatory patchwork for fertilizers.
  • On the issue of consistency, there were some expressions of concern that EPA’s decision to address only limited subset of fertilizers (i.e., those made from hazardous wastes) might create inconsistencies between how the two types of fertilizers are regulated. Other representatives expressed support for EPA’s deferring to the States in developing comprehensive regulations for fertilizers. A related concern was that EPA’s revised RCRA regulations should be compatible with state fertilizer regulations that have already been enacted (such as those in Washington and Texas).
  • A participant who is a member of the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) observed that national consistency in fertilizer regulation is a primary goal of that organization, and that AAPFCO recently adopted a resolution to adopt the Canadian fertilizer standards on an interim basis, as part of its model legislation for state agriculture agencies. The participant stressed, however, that this was an interim move, and that AAPFCO’s ultimate goal is to adopt scientifically defensible risk-based standards for fertilizers. The same participant also stated that if EPA does not develop such standards, AAPFCO may adopt standards based on a risk assessment developed by an organization other than EPA (e.g., the California risk assessment, or one developed by industry).
  • The option of not setting new standards under RCRA, and allowing State fertilizer standards (such as Washington’s) to become the standards for hazardous waste derived fertilizers received no support. One participant stated that the states are "not willing to catch a punt with their hands tied behind their backs". Another participant suggested that EPA should consider developing guidance for the states on risk based standards, if the agency is unable to develop regulatory standards. An EPA representative responded that developing such guidance would still require a full risk assessment, which would be technically very complex and is a resource commitment that the agency is not prepared to support at this time.
  • Little support was expressed for the option of using the 503 biosolids standards for fertilizers. There was some interest in the option of RCRA standards based on a background or non-degradation goal.
  • Several participants stressed the need for standards that are expressed in simple terms, and for which compliance can be determined using straightforward tests. One approach that was suggested would be to express the standard as a ratio of plant nutrient levels to contaminant levels (e.g., no more than x grams of lead per kilogram of zinc). Such ratios could be developed based on natural soil background levels (consistent with at non-degradation standard), or ratios found in "clean" fertilizer products (i.e., a technology-based approach).
  • Use of Canadian standards for RCRA. The option of adopting the Canadian standards for hazardous waste derived fertilizers was discussed at some length. Some of the participants noted that the Canadian standards are not risk-based, and thus may not be defensible scientifically. Others responded that the Canadian standards are in essence based on a "no significant degradation" standard, which as a matter of public policy may be just as defensible as a risk-based standard. It was noted by an EPA representative that the RCRA program prescribes different types of standards, some of which are based on risk assessment and some which are not.
  • Several participants noted that adopting the Canadian standards for RCRA purposes could have some disadvantages, such as:

    The Canadian standards are based on application rates, and since zinc fertilizers (which account for the great majority of hazardous waste derived fertilizers) are applied at relatively low rates, they can comply with the standards even though they may contain high levels of metal contaminants compared to other types of fertilizers. Thus, adopting the Canadian standards would not push manufacturers of zinc fertilizers to make cleaner products. In fact, some participants expressed the concern that adopting the Canadian standards could create opportunities for "sham recycling", since it could be economically attractive for industry (at least in theory) to add hazardous waste contaminants to fertilizers up to the regulatory limits.

    One participant noted that the State of Washington has tested a number of fertilizers using the RCRA TCLP test, and their data indicate that some fertilizers exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic, even though they comply with the Canadian standards. The same participant expressed the view that if the Canadian standards were to become RCRA standards, hazardous waste derived fertilizers should still be required to test non-hazardous if they are to be considered products, rather than wastes.

    Several participants noted that the Canadian standards are sensitive to application rates, and that this could cause enforcement problems (for example, a manufacturer could simply change the recommended application rate for a product as a means of complying with a standard). Another downside is that since actual application rates for fertilizers vary from region to region and crop to crop, states may choose to adopt different application rates in their regulations, which leads to more regulatory inconsistency.

    The Canadian standards specify limits for only a limited number of metal contaminants, as one participant observed, and if EPA were to adopt the Canadian standards for RCRA it would need to examine carefully the need to develop limits for other metals or organic contaminants.

    At least one participant observed that the Canadian standards are based on fertilizer contaminant loadings over a 45-year time period. It was suggested that this time frame lacked a scientific basis, and may not be conservative enough.
  • Labeling. There was general support among the participants for informative, nationally consistent labeling requirements. No consensus was reached, however, as to the specific types of information that should be required on such labels, or whether EPA should require labels specifically for hazardous waste derived fertilizers. It was noted that AAPFCO is developing requirements for labeling of fertilizer ingredients, but that information on contaminant levels in the products would not be required.

    It was noted that Washington State labeling requirements will also not require information on contaminant concentrations, but that such information will be posted on an internet web site, as a means of facilitating public access to that information. It was suggested that if this mechanism is proves successful, EPA should consider using the internet for similar RCRA purposes.
  • Exemptions for K061 and mining wastes. The consensus of the participants was that the current RCRA exemptions for fertilizers made from K061 and mining wastes should be eliminated. One participant believed that the use of mining wastes to make fertilizers may be relatively common, and that a number of fertilizers that appear to have relatively high concentrations of heavy metals may be derived from mining waste of some kind.
  • Management requirements for hazardous wastes prior to recycling in fertilizer. The participants expressed little enthusiasm for the idea of relaxing regulatory controls on hazardous waste fertilizer feedstocks prior to recycling. General sentiment was expressed for increased accountability of industries that are engaged in this practice, rather than less. One participant stated that AAPFCO also supports continued controls on "upstream" materials management.
  • Several participants voiced support for more reporting requirements on manufacturers and waste generators that are engaged in hazardous waste fertilizer recycling, including information on sources, amounts, and composition of incoming and outgoing materials.

    Other Comments:
  • Several participants suggested that although more information should be gathered as to the types of wastes that are being used to manufacture fertilizers, EPA should not suspend its regulatory efforts until that information becomes available. Those participants further suggested that regulatory efforts should focus on what is in the end product, rather than the feedstock. One participant noted that this has been the approach taken by the State of Washington.
  • Several participants suggested that EPA should provide funding for further state investigations of fertilizer contents and waste recycling practices.
  • One participant stated that EPA needs to sensitive to the economic effects of regulations for fertilizers, especially on farmers.


    Background Remarks - Dave Fagan, EPA Office of Solid Waste
  • EPA has begun work on a set of amendments to the current regulations that apply to recycling of hazardous wastes in the manufacture of fertilizers. The current regulations were originally promulgated in the mid-1980s, under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) . These stakeholder meetings are an opportunity for the Agency to gather information and get a better understanding early in the regulatory process with regard to the issues, interests and potential impacts that may result from changing the way these recycling practices are regulated. The meetings may also be useful to the stakeholders in getting a better understanding of EPA’s preliminary findings with regard to contaminants in fertilizers, and the types of regulatory changes being contemplated by the Agency.
  • In 1997 EPA began an effort to examine whether contaminants in fertilizers might be causing unacceptable risks to human health or the environment, largely in response to reports in the media which suggested that fertilizers made from recycled hazardous wastes could be causing harm to human health, crops, and farmland.
  • Agency has been assembling and synthesizing available data on fertilizer contaminants, application rates and regulations in the United States and other countries. A report which presents the results of these investigations is expected to be available by the end of this year.
  • In addition, EPA has begun to look at the risks associated with contaminants in fertilizers. This effort is based on a risk assessment that EPA has prepared for a different regulatory proposal on agricultural use of cement kiln dust (CKD), which is sometimes used as an agricultural liming agent. The CKD risk assessment has been peer-reviewed, and the methods and models used in that assessment are being refined for the fertilizer study. This study of fertilizer contaminant risks is not a comprehensive risk assessment such as would be used to develop risk-based standards (analogous to the risk assessment that was done in support of the 503 standards for land-applied sewage sludge)Bsuch risk assessments typically are multi-year, multimillion dollar efforts. The risk study that EPA is completing is intended to be a "bounding" assessment based on conservative assumptions and models, which should enable the Agency to assess the "protectiveness" of standards (such as the 503 standards and the Canadian fertilizer standards) that might be appropriate for hazardous waste derived fertilizers.
  • EPA’s study of fertilizer risks should be complete in early 1999. Final decisions have not yet been made as to how and when the results of the study will be made publicly available.
  • Although EPA’s studies aren’t yet finalized, and we recognize that we do not have complete information on all aspects of this issue, we begun to form some preliminary conclusions with regard to fertilizer contaminants, including the following:

    Based on the information that we have reviewed so far, it appears that the dimension of the "problem" of contaminants in fertilizers is relatively small. The great majority of fertilizers do not appear to present significant human health or environmental risks. There are, however, a few products that (based on conservative assumptions) contain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic, at levels of potential concern. These include some phosphate fertilizers, as well as wood ash, certain liming agents, and at least one iron fertilizer made from mining waste. With regard to organic contaminants such as dioxins, data are very limited, and since EPA’s dioxin reassessment is still a work in progress, we have not yet reached any clear conclusion with regard to potential risks from dioxins in fertilizers.

    The great majority of fertilizer products marketed in the United States meet the 503 standards, as well as the Canadian standards for heavy metals (the Canadian standards are somewhat more stringent than the 503 standards). Further, EPA’s "bounding" analysis of fertilizer risks indicates that the Canadian fertilizer standards are generally protective of human health and the environment. The Agency has some significant reservations with regard to the "protectiveness" of using the 503 standards for inorganic fertilizers.

    While historically state agriculture agencies have focused primarily on regulating the plant nutrients in fertilizers, rather than contaminants, this is changing. Washington and Texas are the first states to adopt regulations on fertilizer contaminants, and the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) recently amended its model fertilizer legislation to adopt the Canadian standards on an interim basis. EPA supports such state efforts to regulate fertilizer contaminants, as a means of ensuring that the limited number of products that may be problematic are controlled.

    EPA does not believe, based on the information we have reviewed to date, that there is a clear need for comprehensive federal regulations for fertilizer contaminants, which would have to be developed under authorities of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Agency therefore has no plans at this time to develop such regulations.

    Most fertilizers that are made from recycled industrial hazardous wastes are zinc micronutrient fertilizers. Zinc fertilizers represent a relatively small segment of the overall fertilizer market (five percent or less); they can be made from hazardous wastes as well as a variety of other industrial secondary materials, in addition to mined ore concentrates. We are aware that other types of fertilizers may potentially be made from recycled hazardous wastes, but have very limited data on such practicesBwe hope to gain more information on such fertilizers through this regulatory process.

    Part of EPA’s fertilizer assessment work has been an examination of the current RCRA regulations that apply to recycling of hazardous wastes to make fertilizers. For reasons explained in more detail below, the Agency has decided that several aspects of the current regulations should be revised. These regulatory revisions are the focus of this stakeholder meeting.

  • One of the primary objectives of the RCRA program is to encourage legitimate recycling of hazardous wastes, while maintaining appropriate regulatory controls to ensure that such practices are protective of human health and the environment. In the case of fertilizers, current RCRA requirements address two major environmental concerns: (a) how hazardous waste secondary materials are managed prior to recycling, and (b) controls on contaminants in the fertilizer products made from such materials. RCRA generally does not regulate the actual units or processes that are used in recycling. The following is a summary of the current regulatory framework for hazardous waste derived fertilizers:

    RCRA regulations currently require that (with one exception) fertilizers made from recycled hazardous wastes have to meet the applicable "land disposal restrictions" treatment standards (these "LDR" treatment standards have been developed by EPA for essentially all hazardous wastes that are land disposed). These standards are generally technology-based. The one exception allowed under current regulations is for fertilizers made from electric arc furnace dust (RCRA waste code K061) Bin 1988 EPA exempted such fertilizers from having to meet the LDR standards.

    Management of hazardous secondary materials prior to recycling for fertilizers is subject to the "use constituting disposal" (UCD) provision of RCRA (40 CFR 266.20). This provision in essence requires that hazardous waste secondary materials must be managed as hazardous wastes prior to being recycled. Thus, for example, shipments of such materials are subject to manifest requirements, and storage of the materials (e.g., by the fertilizer manufacturer) will generally require a RCRA permit.

    Certain types of wastes are specifically exempted in the RCRA statute from being regulated as hazardous waste, including mining wastes, unless EPA establishes through rulemaking that such wastes should be regulated as hazardous wastes. Thus, fertilizers made from such exempt wastes are not subject to RCRA standards, even if the wastes (or the fertilizer) were to exhibit a hazardous waste characteristic.
  • An EPA workgroup has been established to develop revised RCRA regulations for hazardous waste derived fertilizers. The workgroup has been charged with the following:

    Re-examine the current standards for contaminants in hazardous waste derived fertilizers, and if warranted promulgate alternative standards that are more appropriate for fertilizers and that are protective of human health and the environment. Note that EPA has no plans to conduct a full risk assessment for this rulemaking, and thus we do not anticipate developing new risk-based standards specifically for fertilizer (i.e., analogous to the 503 standards for land applied biosolids).

    Re-examine the current exemptions for K061-derived fertilizers and fertilizers made from exempt mining wastes, and determine whether the exemptions should be maintained, modified or eliminated.

    Re-examine the current UCD regulatory provision as it applies specifically to hazardous waste derived fertilizers, with the intent of removing unnecessary regulatory disincentives to legitimate recycling.
  • The process for developing these new regulations:

    Over the next six to nine months the Workgroup will continue to gather information and examine regulatory options. Additional outreach/stakeholder meetings may be arranged if necessary.

    We expect to submit a proposal for review by the Office of Management and Budget next fall, and publish the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by January, 2000. This will be followed by a two or three month comment period.

    Final rule is expected to be published approximately one year after the proposal.


November 1998 Fertilizer Meeting
Interest GroupNameOrganizationMailing AddressPhone Number
    e mail address
EnvironmentalLaurie ValerianoWaToxics Coalition206 632-1545 x14
EnvironmentalErika SchrederWaToxics Coalition206 632-1545 x19
EnvironmentalJon StierWash PIRG206 523-8985
EnvironmentalPatricia Martin509 787-4275
EnvironmentalGreg WingardWaste Action Project206 622-7803
IndustryRenee PinelCA Fertilizer Association916 441-1584
IndustryDick CampBay Zinc509 248-4911
IndustryBill HallIMC Global941 428-7161
IndustryLarry CulleenArnold & Porter202 942-5477
IndustryAllan WhitneyAmerican MicroTrace757 399-4386
GovernmentAli KashaniWA Dept. of Agriculture360 902-2028
GovernmentCaroline AhearnEPA-HQ-OCEA/RRD202 564-4012
GovernmentMitch KidwellEPA-HQ-OSW703 308-8644
JournalistDuff Wilson425 722-1484
LawyerRoger KluckKluck Law Offices206 405-4373
IndustryFrank J. WarnkeAdvocates, Inc. (Scotts)P. O. Box 4430
Tumwater, WA 98501
360 705 3464
IndustryMike BarrySims Ag Products419 462-1094
IndustryBruce BzuraOld Bridge Chemicals732 727-2225
IndustrySusan GieserOld Bridge Chemicals732 727-2225
IndustryGeorge ObeldobelBig River Zinc618 279-6240
IndustryOwen AndersonStoller Enterprises, Inc.713 461-1493 x17
IndustryCarl SchaubleFrit Industries334 744-2515
IndustryJohn SalmonsonMonterey Chem Co.209 499-2100
IndustryScott McKinnieFar West Fertilizer509 838-6653
IndustryDirk LohryNutra-Flo Plant FoodP. O. Box 2334
Sioux City, IA 51106
712 277 2011
IndustryTim StemwedelMineral King209 582-9228
IndustryTom RushTom Rush FarmsP. O. Box 4304
Pasco, WA 99302
509 546-2176
GovernmentMary WahlODEQ503 229-5072
GovernmentAnne PriceODEQ503 229-6585
GovernmentDeborah BahsWA Dept. Of Agriculture360 902 2080
GovernmentDennis BowhayWDOE509 454-7866
IndustryMichael DeikerAmerican MicroTrace800 364 7817
IndustryMartin HightChemical & Pigment Co925 689 2030
IndustrySanford R. SimonPursell Industries, Inc.256 249-6848
IndustrySteve ArtusVAE Energy Operations925 244-1100
IndustryDon SmallwoodCoZinCo Sales, Inc.303 969-9414
GovernmentDick HetheringtonEPA-Region 10206 553-1941
IndustryAli AlaviHorsehead724 773-2212
IndustryBill PerryCameron Chemical118 Hibben Road
Chesapeake, VA 23320
757 547-5420
IndustryBill SchimmingPCS Phosphate Co., Inc.919 881-2754
IndustryJim SkillenThe Fertilizer Institute202 608-5910
IndustryChris LeasonMcKenna & Cuneo, LLP
(Counsel to TFI)
202 496-7102
IndustryOzzie MorrisCargill Fertilizer813 671-6158
IndustryMatt SmithAgrium V.S., Inc.303 804-4405
IndustryJodi GearonERC425 222-6502
GovernmentAlec McBrideEPA-HQ-OSW703 308-0466
GovernmentStephen MauchCA Dept. of Food & Ag.916 654-0792
GovernmentJames BakerIdaho Dept. of Ag.208 332-8608
GovernmentJanet FultsOregon Dept. of Ag.503 986-4652
GovernmentChristopher SimmsLA DEQ/HWD225 765-2471
GovernmentRoseann KachadoorianOR Dept. of Ag.503 986-4651
GovernmentDenise LaflammeWA Dept. of Health360 236-3174
GovernmentJim O. WhiteWA Dept. of Health360 236-3181
GovernmentDuncan GilroyOR Health Division503 731-4015
EducationDavid TerryUniversity of Kentucky606 257-2668
GovernmentCarol JollyGov. Locke’s Policy Office360 902-0639
GovernmentLorie HewittWA Dept. of Ecology360 352-0201
GovernmentChris ChapmanWA Dept. of Ecology360 407-7160
GovernmentAnne PriceOR Dept. of EQ503 229-6585
GovernmentJamey JohnsonArkansas State Plant Board501 225-1598
EducationAlan R. HanksIndiana State Chemist765 494-1492
EducationDavid S. HowleClemson University Dept.
of Fert & Seed Cert.
864 646-2140
EnvironmentalChris PeotE & A Environmental425 485-3219
GovernmentKen KadlecCongress Jim McDermott206 553-7170
GovernmentChipper HervieuxWA Dept. of Ecology360 407-6756
GovernmentSherri LehmanEPA-California - Toxic Substance Control400 P Street, 4th Flr
Sacramento, CA 95812
916 327-4509
GovernmentDave FaganUS EPA Office of Solid WasteMail Code 5301W
Washington, DC 20460
703 308-0603
    fagan.david@epa. gov
GovernmentDavid BartusUS EPA Region 10, Off.
of Waste & Chem. Mgmt.
206 553-2804
GovernmentViccy SalazarUS EPA Region 10, Off. of Waste & Chem. Mgmt.206 553-1060
Government Mike BussellUS EPA Region 10, Off. of Waste & Chem. Mgmt.206 553-4198bussell.mike@epa.gov
GovernmentCaroline AhearnUS EPA Off. of Enf. & Compliance Assurance, HQ202 564-4012

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