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October 2004

Are You Complying with the Current Environmental Regulations?

If you operate an auto salvage yard, it is important for you to know the EPA regulations that apply to your activities. You probably need permits for wastewater discharges and need a Pollution Prevention Plan. You may also be required to notify the EPA if you generate any hazardous waste. Complying with some regulations, such as getting a permit, may take some time. So, the earlier you look into your responsibilities, the better. Listed below are some of the major environmental requirements that may apply to you and will provide you with a starting point to identify areas where your business might be subject to regulation.

The EPA regulates how Freon is handled from vehicle air conditioners. Under these regulations, refrigerants must be removed from salvage vehicles before the vehicles are recycled. The rules also set standards for Freon recovery and disposal. It is strictly against the law to vent the refrigerant into the air, so it's important that you don't try to pull a compressor or engine, etc, in the yard, until you have pumped the refrigerant out of the system.

In most states there are regulations in place for businesses that handle scrap tires.

Auto salvage yards generate used oil and oil products. These oil products subject you to the spill prevention regulations and in most cases require you to provide secondary containment for the waste fluids. The best way to manage used oil is to send it off site to a recycling company.

Antifreeze drained from vehicles is considered a hazardous waste. You CANNOT dispose of used antifreeze by pouring it into your septic system, on the ground, or in the trash. In most areas, you also cannot dispose of antifreeze in the sanitary sewer. The best option for handling used antifreeze is to have it recycled. Again, secondary containment is likely required.

Most auto salvage yards use solvents and disposable or reusable rags to clean parts or equipment. When disposed of, these solvents and rags often meet the definition of a hazardous waste. The best option to manage rags is to send them off-site to a commercial laundry for cleaning.

If batteries from vehicles are handled improperly, they can pose environmental and health hazards. Battery components are toxic and corrosive. Lead and sulfuric acid in batteries can contaminate the air, soil and water. By sending them to a battery recycling company, both the lead and sulfuric acid can be recovered from batteries. Batteries should never be stored outside, unless under a roof or in a sealed container.

An auto salvage business may generate process wastewater from equipment cleaning, car washing, paint spray booths or other sources. Any discharge of industrial wastewater to streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, watercourses, waterways, wells and springs will require a discharge permit. Many modern operations use full loop water recycling, to reuse their water used for cleaning, rather than discharging it and most cities require this on new operations.

Floor drains are found at many businesses. Some shops have small rectangular or round floor drains connected to underground piping. Do you know where the floor drains in your business go? Are you discharging wastewater or other fluids into your floor drains?

Typically auto salvage yards have outdoor areas where salvage operations are conducted or materials are stored. Storm water contacting these outdoor areas can carry pollutants such as heavy metals, oils and solvents directly to a stream, ditch, lake or other surface water. Auto salvage yards are regulated facilities and under the storm water regulations, are required to obtain a permit and develop a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). Some of the problems you may encounter involve core engine and transmission piles, which should never be stored outside, unless under a roof.

Mercury is a highly toxic metal and is often found in vehicle hood and trunk light switches. During crushing or shredding, mercury can be released into the environment, polluting the water and soil. By removing switches at your salvage yard, you play an important role in keeping mercury out of the environment. Mercury switch removal is not difficult or expensive to do.

On a non-technical note, drums are the bane of our existence. Eliminate ALL drums outside, except for paper trash, and even those can be problematic if oily products get into them.

The EPA has identified our industry for additional scrutiny. If you don't have the proper equipment, licenses and permits, you should get them now to avoid serious fines. Most of the permits and such have been required for a decade or so, and are well publicized, so your failure to have them is going to cause a lot of expensive issues for you, and could actually shut your operation down.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Ron's free monthly auto recycling e-newsletter, with news and tips, register at www.autosalvageconsultant.com.

Remember, only you can make BUSINESS GREAT!

Ron Sturgeon is past owner of AAA Small Car World. In 1999, he sold his six Texas locations, with 140 employees, to Greenleaf. In 2001, he founded North Texas Insurance Auction, which he sold to Copart in 2002. In 2002, his book “Salvaging Millions” was published to help small business owners achieve significant success, and was recently reprinted. In June 2003, he joined the new ownership and management team of GreenLeaf. He also manages his real estate holdings and investments. You can learn more about him at WWW.autosalvageconsultant.com He can be reached at 5940 Eden, Haltom City, TX 76117, rons@rdsinvestments.com or 817-834-3625 ext 6#.

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