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Waste Industry Asks EPA to Stay Enforcement During Pandemic (1)

March 24, 2020, 7:58 PMUpdated: March 25, 2020, 2:34 PM

The waste and recycling industry is seeking flexibility from the EPA on waste permit enforcement as it anticipates the effects of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The National Waste and Recycling Association submitted its request for a stay on enforcement to the Environmental Protection Agency. The association’s members are concerned that ill employees, confusion about state orders, and protective gear shortages could interfere with time-sensitive requirements for managing landfills.

The industry is anticipating “upheavals” in companies’ abilities to comply with landfill permits, according to the letter.

“EPA is in the process of developing guidance regarding enforcement during the COVID-19 outbreak,” an agency spokesperson said Wednesday. “We will provide additional information upon its completion.”

The association requested similar flexibility from state and local governments on Monday in separate letters to the National League of Cities, National Governors Association, and the National Association of Counties.

Staff shortages brought on by the pandemic may mean waste management companies miss deadlines for documenting or completing tasks required by regulations or permits, the association said. Various kinds of monitoring, including groundwater and surface emissions monitoring, could be delayed if there aren’t enough technicians, it said.

Medical Waste

Companies that manage medical waste are starting to receive infectious waste as a result of Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

“Industry is really looking to plan ahead for more increased volume,” said Elise Paeffgen, partner at Alston & Bird LLP in Washington, D.C.

Medical waste disposal is regulated by multiple entities, including the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and states.

“We’re making sure that we’ve got the capacity to deal with it,” said Phil Retallick, senior vice president of compliance and regulatory affairs for Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. The company is keeping in close contact with state and federal health and emergency management agencies, Retallick said.

(Adds response from EPA in fourth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Sylvia Carignan in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Anna Yukhananov at