For health care facilities in all states, a final rule from the EPA that prohibits such facilities from flushing or otherwise introducing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals into a sewer system is now in effect. Moreover, for facilities in Alaska and Iowa, the entire regulatory framework established by the rule for managing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals is now in effect. While most states and territories have their own EPA-authorized hazardous waste regulation that must be updated to be at least as stringent as the Federal regulation, Alaska and Iowa follow the Federal regulation. Other states and territories will have until 2020 or 2021 to update their regulation.
The rule, which establishes Subpart P to the existing Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulation, applies to a wide array of facilities, including hospitals, physician offices, pharmacies, long-term care facilities, ambulance services, and veterinary clinics / hospitals. Long-term care facilities, however, face the greatest compliance hurdle. While most health care facilities have been subject to RCRA for years, nursing facilities historically were exempt from RCRA because they were classified as “household generators.” Promulgation of the final rule in February, 2019 changed that. Accordingly, nursing facilities will need to navigate not only Subpart P for their hazardous waste pharmaceuticals but other portions of the RCRA regulation for their non-pharmaceutical hazardous waste.
All facilities affected by the rule will need to complete a thorough review of its requirements, draft policies and procedures to govern day-to-day operations regarding such matters as identification, collection and storage of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals, and develop a training curriculum for staff. Above all, however, facilities should no longer be discharging hazardous waste pharmaceuticals into a sewer system.
For an in depth discussion of the EPA hazardous waste pharmaceuticals rule, please consult our Legal Insight.