Why Develop a Partnership with your Hazardous Waste Services Provider

This is Part 1 of a 2-part interview with Jonathan Eckles, certified hazardous materials manager (CHMM) and past president of the Gateway Society of Hazardous Materials Managers.  Jonathan commented on the importance of developing a collaborative partnership with your hazardous waste services provider in a recent interview. Jonathan has managed waste disposal for various Fortune 500 chemical companies for more than 15 years, and was a technical and regulatory resource for operations of a private incinerator for nearly five years.

"Veolia is also very careful about doing due diligence with waste streams and assuring that material doesn't end up some place it doesn't belong, whether it's hazardous or nonhazardous materials."


“Cradle to grave liability is actually a misnomer, because even after the material is in the grave, you still hold liability for it if the disposal company ever runs into trouble. That's why it's so important to pick a healthy environmental services partner, one that is both organizationally and financially strong."

“The key component to determining the strength of a company is auditing. I encourage anybody who disposes of waste to know who they're dealing with. Some companies conduct on-site audits and pull financial documents through Dun & Bradstreet. Others will pay auditing companies like CHWMEG® to complete background checks and audits of the facilities they are using. Without doing some kind of background check or knowing how a company operates, you can be exposed to risks. Is the hazardous waste provider properly handling the material? Can their facilities stand the test of time? If the company goes out of business and there is a problem with how they have disposed of waste, the generators could be responsible for the removal of waste and remediation of that disposal site.”


“You really need to be analytical about the situation and not be penny wise and pound foolish. I've encountered facilities when I've been auditing that have been using a broker, and they say, ‘The broker takes my waste and he shops around. It may be cheaper to go to disposal facility A in April, and disposal facility B in July, because of the different needs and demands of the different facilities.' That approach makes it really hard on the generator to keep track of your waste. Your liability is also getting spread out into more places."

“Even the idea of changing providers brings risk. It's just like changing jobs. You lose some of your security by dealing with another company, so when you change companies for disposal it’s a decision that should be taken seriously. There must be enough savings there. Even if both companies are great, stable companies, you are still potentially on the hook some day in the future. It could be 50 or 70 years from now that the EPA comes back and says, ‘The liner leaked in that landfill, and anybody who put material into that landfill is going to pay to install a new drinking water system to the neighborhood that was two miles down gradient.’ That could be millions of dollars per contributor, and you may have only sent one load there, because it was more convenient at the time.”


“Technically you're always responsible, but the contracts are where the rubber meets the road. If you're dealing with a strong, large company like Veolia, there are a number of firewalls in place. There are indemnification clauses in your contract that protect you on a contractual basis, and most of the better agreements add you to their insurance policy. If your waste ends up going somewhere, if there’s a hiccup in the system, and they use another company’s site for disposal, you could still file a claim with the insurance company and point to the indemnification clause. Insurance coverage should be a piece of the audit, too. Make sure the company has good insurance. If they're only insured for $1 million dollars and a cleanup would take $20 million, you'll still end up contributing money out of your own pocket for that situation.”


“Veolia is also very careful about doing due diligence with waste streams and assuring that material doesn't end up some place it doesn't belong, whether it's hazardous or nonhazardous materials. They do their best to understand the process that's generating the waste and what's in it, so they don't get caught in a clean-up situation with material that should never have been on the premises. This is one more layer of protection for me, as well as other generator’s potential mishaps.”