Regulators are offering some regulatory flexibility on a case-by-case basis for special situations that are unavoidable and, most importantly, do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.
If you find that your business has been unable to remain in compliance, follow the four steps Cheryl Moran suggests in her most recent article. Cheryl provides examples from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Remember, policies may be updated or terminated at any time; so, be sure to visit your appropriate state websites regularly or contact your SCS Project Manager for advice.
About the Author: Cheryl Moran is a Project Manager at SCS Engineers with more than 25 years of experience in the printing industry. She is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and develops air, water, and waste management solutions; EPCRA; environmental compliance audits and navigating discretionary enforcement; and sustainability programs. For any of our 50 states contact or our nearest office.
The men and women of the solid waste industry have been continuing their jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of their hard work and sacrifice, SWANA is collaborating with Glad to support sanitation workers across the United States and Canada personally affected by COVID-19 through the Sanitation Workers Support Fund (Fund). The Fund is providing financial assistance to eligible front-line solid waste and recycling collection workers in the United States and Canada adversely impacted by COVID-19.
“The solid waste industry is considered essential, and its workers have been on the front line, without failure, making sure waste is collected and disposed of since the onset of COVID-19. This fund is an important recognition of their contribution to our communities, and is a way of providing support when they are personally impacted by the pandemic,” stated Suzanne Sturgeon, Health & Safety Program Manager for SCS Field Services and SWANA Safety Committee Chair.
On March 26, 2020, the EPA issued the COVID-19 Implications for EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program memorandum. This temporary policy allows for enforcement discretion for noncompliance resulting from the pandemic. The memorandum requires regulated entities to take specific steps, then document how COVID-19 caused the noncompliance and efforts to return to compliance. Noncompliance issues may include but are not limited to, routine monitoring, reporting, and testing.
EPA is the implementing authority for programs where the consequences of the pandemic may affect reporting obligations and milestones set forth in settlements and consent decrees. These consequences may affect the ability of an operation to meet enforceable limitations on air emissions and water discharges, requirements for the management of hazardous waste, or requirements to ensure and provide safe drinking water.
These are very distinct situations that the EPA plans to manage differently, as described on the EPA website page https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/oecamemooncovid19implications.pdf
Not all states and commonwealths have adopted a temporary discretionary enforcement policy. As an example, the Illinois EPA has not adopted a discretionary enforcement policy, and all state statutes and regulations remain in effect. Should your organization face a situation where regulatory compliance may be at risk due to COVID-19, this special circumstance may still be a mitigating factor in the event of an enforcement action by Illinois EPA.
If you are uncertain if you will be able to meet your compliance obligations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you need assistance please visit our locations to find the office nearest you or contact an SCS professional at .
Municipalities and their private sector partners will experience high costs, especially in residential collections to cover all of the costs incurred as workers transition to working from home. FEMA can help protect public health and safety by committing to cover the costs of essential services provided that aren’t paid by the service recipients.
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) have both sent letters to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor requesting that the agency establish a system to compensate the waste and recycling industry for providing services to protect public health and safety that otherwise would go unpaid during the COVID-19 outbreak.
NWRA says it also shared copies of the letter with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the nation’s COVID-19 response task force, and the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery, which has oversight of FEMA.
Solid waste management is identified as an essential critical infrastructure workforce in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) March 19, 2020 memo, and has been listed as essential in every emergency order issued at the state level in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in city and county responses as well.
“Providing these essential services to those unable to pay as a result of economic hardships caused by COVID-19 while continuing to employ the workforce needed to support such an effort will require assistance,” NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith writes in the NWRA letter.
“Since both the public and private sectors collect and manage solid waste and recyclables, SWANA’s letter asserts that all sanitation departments, haulers, and post-collection companies providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic without being paid for them should be eligible for reimbursement,” said SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman.
Darrell Smith points out that FEMA can establish a vehicle under disaster debris management plans or by other alternative direct compensation means as selected by the agency to compensate the waste and recycling industry for providing uncompensated services to protect public health and safety during this time of national emergency.
Both NWRA and SWANA specifically ask for funding to cover services provided in the U.S. related to customer bad debt and other uncompensated costs incurred for services being provided to the public during the national emergency.
Despite the many impacts on our lives right now, our thanks go to the many public and private solid waste management employees, and organizations such as SWANA and the NWRA, for continuing to serve our communities to keep them clean and safe nationwide. Solid waste management is definitely an essential service on the frontline.
Both associations are providing guidance, as many waste management activities must continue. SCS is following association advice, state protocols, and our clients’ recommendations in our own procedures as we continue to perform essential work. We share the SWANA resources and recommendations here and thank them for their dedication. SCS employees should use SCS resources available on the SCS intranet and through our Health & Safety protocol, which reflect the safety precautions advised here.
Reprinted Letter to SWANA Members dated March 23, 2020
As communities and companies throughout the United States and Canada respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, SWANA will continue to provide assistance to its members and the waste industry.
A growing number of states and localities are issuing orders identifying certain industries as “essential” during the pandemic, and these orders typically include the solid waste industry and other categories of employees who may be SWANA members. In those locations, employees and contractors may need to demonstrate proof to law enforcement personnel or others that they work in an essential industry. See this template letter that employers can customize to their needs and provide to employees and contractors. The letter should be on agency/company letterhead and include a contact person and a telephone number to call. The contact person should be familiar with the applicable emergency declarations.
Employees and contractors should carry the customized letter with them at all times, and particularly when they are going to or from work. Several waste industry employees in California in their personal vehicles were stopped on their way to work by law enforcement personnel late last week, but fortunately, their employer had created a letter similar to the attached and the employees were able to show that letter and proceed to their places of employment.
This letter is intended to allow workers to demonstrate that they work in a job category identified as an essential service, including solid waste and recycling operations. It should not be used for any other purpose or by employees that are not actively supporting these operations.
In addition, attached is a notification document for solid waste employers and others to place in their work vehicles to demonstrate they are covered by recent emergency order guidance. It cites the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, March 19, 2020 memo that identifies workers engaged in the removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste as essential infrastructure workers.
NWRA resources are plentiful and include these:
COVID-19 WORK PRACTICES At this time CDC and OSHA are not issuing waste and recycling specific guidelines for the handling of waste and recycling materials related to COVID 19. If this changes, NWRA will alert its members. Use this industry guidance.
COVID-19 RESOURCES Resources and information provided by agencies and organizations.
We know our valued clients, partners, and associations are busy assessing the impact and the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus. Our thoughts are with your employees and their families during this health crisis.
SCS is committed and well prepared to continue the delivery of our services.
Our business model includes 70 regional and satellite offices located near client sites throughout the United States, with additional mobile offices co-located on project sites. The model has always worked well for us because our professionals and technicians live nearby; our distributed service network means we can drive to project sites instead of flying, for example. We do use national resources as well; if a lab closes in one region or state, we have access to other resources. We are monitoring local conditions (including regulatory guidance) for COVID-19 just as we do for other regulatory programs.
We put health and safety above any other consideration.
This includes the health and safety of our employees, the client representatives with whom we work, contacts we make during our work, and the public. Our employees can work remotely with full access to our infrastructure and technologies. Our field staff continues working with our clients to keep critical infrastructure running, and our SCS Remote Monitoring and Control and SCSeTools help. In most cases, government agencies understand that the services we provide to our clients are essential.
We are helping our clients prioritize critical functions to inform decisions that might have to be made in these rapidly-evolving circumstances. We have increased the frequency of our internal communications to assure that our back-up resources quickly mobilize when needed.
We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and have assembled a task force at the highest level of our firm to make sure our important work continues. As circumstances change, we will provide general updates on this website and via client updates from our project and regional managers. We continue adapting to meet our responsibilities safely and thank our clients, vendors, and colleagues for their diligent work and care.
Jim Walsh, President, and CEO
SCS Customer Support:
In light of public concerns related to COVID-19, SCS Engineers has proactive measures and contingency plans in place to protect our employees and our clients, while continuing our work. SCS’s Health & Safety practice, in consultation with our executives, the Centers for Disease Control, and industry associations, endeavors to make the most responsible decisions as circumstances demand.
SCS will post updates here as needed, and is in regular and consistent communication with all employees and with our clients.