DEP Information Sheet
Disposal of Lead-Contaminated Wastes from Lead Abatement and Renovation Activities
Contact: (207) 287-7688
Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health threat to children in the United States. Children may be exposed to significant levels of lead from paint in and around houses and child care facilities built prior to 1978. Health effects include permanent learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and severe developmental delays. At least 50% of the children in Maine who are severely lead-poisoned have been exposed to high levels of lead dust from home remodeling projects.
Adults working in and around lead abatement activities can also be exposed to health-threatening levels of lead. Lead abatement activities undertaken to reduce the amount of lead in the environment result in the creation of lead-contaminated waste. If these lead-contaminated wastes are not properly managed, the risk of exposure to harmful levels of lead is increased.
How do I handle and dispose of lead-contaminated wastes?
Both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maine DEP have hazardous and solid waste management laws which may apply to the handling and disposal of lead-contaminated waste. In August, 2000 EPA’s Office of Solid Waste issued a memo stating that waste generated as a result of lead-based paint activities in residential settings is household waste. This means that if the lead-contaminated waste is disposed of as part of the household’s waste stream, it is considered “household hazardous waste” and is exempt from hazardous waste regulation. Under this interpretation of the hazardous waste rules, lead-contaminated wastes may be transported directly from the residence where generated to an appropriate solid waste facility.
Under Maine's Lead Management Regulations (Chapter 424 of the DEP’s rules), all debris from lead abatement activities, including all lead-contaminated debris that will be disposed of as household hazardous waste, must be wrapped in a protective covering with all seams taped, or placed in closed durable containers resistant to puncture. This secure wrapping or containerization of all debris is a good guideline to use even when the waste is generated as part of a non-regulated activity (e.g., interim controls, including repainting).
The handling and disposal of lead-contaminated household hazardous wastes are regulated under Maine's Solid Waste Management Regulations (Chapter 400 et seq.). There are a variety of licensed solid waste facilities which accept demolition debris and other solid wastes from lead abatement activities, including local transfer stations and landfills.
Do the hazardous waste rules ever apply to lead-contaminated wastes?
The hazardous waste rules apply to any lead-contaminated waste generated from any place other than a residence (including both single and multi-family residences). This means that lead-contaminated waste generated by child care facilities, public buildings, and commercial and industrial buildings is subject to hazardous waste regulations. Also, if a contractor moves lead-contaminated waste from a residence to another location prior to disposal, then the contractor is considered the generator of the waste and the hazardous waste rules apply. The contractor, as the “generator” of the waste, then needs to use his/her knowledge of the waste or waste analysis data to determine whether the waste exhibits the "Toxicity Characteristic" as measured using the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP). Lead-contaminated wastes with TCLP levels at or above 5 parts per million lead are defined as hazardous and must be handled and disposed of in conformance with hazardous waste laws and regulations.
HEPA filters are a good example of a lead-contaminated waste that might be moved from one residence to the contractor’s shop or to another job. If the HEPA filter is only used at one residence and then disposed of as part of the waste from that residence, then the hazardous waste rules do not apply. If however, the contractor chooses not to dispose of the HEPA filter at the end of a residential job, and instead uses the filter until it is spent, then the contractor must manage that HEPA filter as hazardous waste.
What if I have additional questions about the handling and disposal of lead-contaminated wastes?
The State of Maine is authorized by EPA to implement and administer the hazardous waste law within Maine. For more information on the laws and regulations on the handling and disposal of hazardous waste, please contact the DEP's Hazardous Waste Program at (207) 287-7688.
For more information on the Solid Waste Management Regulations, or for a listing of licensed solid waste facilities in Maine, please contact the DEP's Solid Waste Program at (207) 287-7688.
For more information on Maine’s Lead Management Regulations, please contact the DEP’s Lead and Asbestos Hazard Prevention Program, also at (207) 287-7688.