Picture taken by Kim Clark, 2009

Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

About Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

The Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction (HWTR) Program is made up of people dedicated to fostering  sustainability, preventing pollution, and promoting safe waste management. We do many different things in a coordinated approach to protect the people and environment of Washington from pollution from hazardous products and dangerous waste. We focus on five core activities to efficiently use resources for the benefit of the people and the environment in the state.

HWTR Core Activities

1. Provide Pollution Prevention Assistance: Toxics Reduction experts advise businesses in reducing the amount of hazardous substances used in their processes. In turn, this reduces the amount of dangerous waste they generate. Learn more.

  • Facilities in Washington that generate more than a minimum threshold of dangerous waste  must prepare a Pollution Prevention Plan. Skilled HWTR staff help these planning facilities identify the improvements to their processes  that will use the least hazardous constituents during manufacturing and operations, reducing hazardous waste generation.
  • HWTR staff also provide intensive technical assistance to specific sectors and facilities that have the potential to yield the greatest results. This work includes the Technical Resources for Engineering Efficiency (TREE) Program, the Environmental Results Program, and the Mercury Chemical Action Plan. HWTR coordinates much of this work with local governments.

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2. Provide Compliance Assistance:  Dangerous Waste Inspectors advise businesses on properly managing their wastes and complying with dangerous waste regulations. Learn more.

  • This helps ensure that businesses understand the rules and carry them out effectively. Staff provide this help through publications, workshops, phone consultations, site visits, and analyses of industry sectors.
  • The state’s rules for managing hazardous waste derive from the federal Resource Conversation Recovery Act (1980) and the state Hazardous Waste Management Act (1976).

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3. Enforce Dangerous Waste Regulations: Dangerous Waste Inspectors work to increase compliance with the rules. They take action on significant environmental threats from dangerous waste mismanagement. Learn more.

  • HWTR conducts more than 200 compliance inspections every year, inspecting large, medium, and small quantity generators and hazardous waste management facilities.
  • HWTR focuses on inspecting facilities with the most potential to cause environmental harm. Ecology selects facilities for inspection based upon complaints, past compliance records, the results of sector analyses, and other criteria.
  • HWTR offers compliance assistance prior to formal enforcement action. Informal enforcement, such as compliance letters, notices of correction, and technical assistance, normally results in compliance. Enforcement proceeds more quickly if there is an imminent threat to human health or the environment.
  • Formal enforcement may proceed when informal enforcement does not work. Formal enforcement actions are infrequent and are usually only brought into play when a facility repeatedly refuses or is unable to correct violations. Intentional pollution or environmental crimes can result in a criminal investigation.

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4. Manage Treatment, Storage, and Disposal (TSD) Facility Permits: HWTR specialists work to prevent dangerous waste pollution through permitting, closure, and corrective action. Learn more.

  • Dangerous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDs) must obtain a permit. The permit ensures that facility standards and operations protect the environment.
  • Ecology is responsible for overseeing approximately 15 operating TSDs in Washington. These facilities need to renew their permit at least every ten years. A facility may need to modify its permit sooner if it changes its operations.
  • HWTR staff oversee site-specific corrective action (cleanups) at contaminated TSDs. Sites with the greatest hazard to human health and the environment have the highest priority. We currently oversee cleanup at 34 TSD facilities.
  • TSDs must have closure plans to deal with decontaminating sites that no longer manage dangerous waste. Closure activities may trigger cleanup actions at these sites.

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5. Provide access to hazardous substance and dangerous waste information and quality data. HWTR collects, compiles, analyzes, and reports data on dangerous waste generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal. The program also collects data on toxic chemicals released to the environment and chemicals stored by Washington businesses, under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Learn more.

  • Our automated data systems:
    • Collect and organize program information to plan site visits.
    • Measure progress on pollution prevention and compliance.
    • Track information from hundreds of facilities with pollution prevention plans.
    • Track thousands of facilities that pay fees.
  • We continually strive to improve how we organize and analyze this data to measure the success of our activities. We are increasing public access by making more information available on the Internet and presenting it in more useful ways.
  • These efforts also support the agency’s environmental justice work with communities and the public.

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Related Publications and Resources

  • HWTR Program Plan for 2015-2017
    Explains how the Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program coordinates these five priority activities to address cleanup and management of existing hazardous waste and prevent generation of future waste.
  • Ecology's Strategic Plan for 2015 - 2017
    Describes Department of Ecology’s priorities including the HWTR program’s role to reduce the use of toxic chemicals and manage hazardous waste (begins on page 6).
  • Shoptalk Newsletter
    An on-line newsletter for hazardous waste generators.
  • 2013 Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction Program Survey
    Results from the survey of dangerous waste generators on their information preferences.
  • HWTR Contacts
    Names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for HWTR staff.
  • Links
    Web resources for pollution prevention, waste management, chemical, and business information.
  • Site Map
    A list of all the pages linked within the Hazardous Waste and Toxic Reduction website.


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