Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Help with legal question

RxnJackson - 3-11-2007 at 19:15

First time poster, please bear with me, and thank you all ahead of time for your help......

I own a small buisiness (not incorporated, but an LLC and fully registered in my state, in buisiness for 13 years). We are engineering consulting based in the medical field and have always had a small number of solvents in house. Recently the buisiness is growing and some of this growth is in chemistry capability and we have been aquiring more and more glassware, reagents, and solvents to meet customer needs. Mostly polymer science stuff.

Now to my question.......

I have been searching and searcing and have become very farmiliar with the listed chems, and watched chems etc (though we have a number here and saw no issue in ordering them). But I am finding it very hard to find concrete information from the State and the Federal Gvt regarding possession and storage of chemicals. Is anyone aware at what point EPA regulations need to be met, where that information can be found, and the kind of penalty associated with non-conformance? I saw some discussion in one of the boards in relation to a minimum reported quantity, or something similar.

Any and all help is greatly appreciated.


BromicAcid - 3-11-2007 at 20:26

There are a number of factors to consider here. Is there any waste disposal? If so there are different levels of waste generators such as CESQG which is probably what you would want considering it has the fewest reporting requirements. Really it depends on the amount of waste generated though.

Working with solvents and such air release permits and such come into play from the EPA although I don't know much about the issue I know in some cases it is very important.

With the storage you will have to work with OSHA requirement in terms of right to know information. In some cases (not many) you also have to show that the solvent vapors do no exceed their permissible limits. EXP wiring may be necessary in rooms working with solvents.

Most of the regulations are all over the place, I have been told that it is not their responsibility to make sure you are doing things correctly but only to punish you for doing them wrong (I heard that a lot in the hazardous waste business).

Listed chemicals and watched chemicals are really not what you should be worrying about though you might have to have your employees go through some 'Security Training' to ensure they know what to look out for with respect to suspicious activity.

Minimum reported quantity, usually just abbreviated RQ in the books is the amount of material that has to involved in an incident/release before it has to be reported to the authorities. This is kind of a DOT/EPA cross over thing since they both seem to use it. Hopefully you will not be transporting any of these materials otherwise appropriate DOT training will be necessary.

In terms of non-conformance, the maximum EPA penalty is $32,500 per violation per day. Meaning that if you left the bung off a 55 gallon drum of solvent for a week you could be fined up to $227,500. Although the maximum is so high it is hardly ever applied, if you look at the news releases at the EPA site they list fines that have been applied to businesses and they are hardly ever as stringent.

It's all such a pain in the butt, this is the most general overview of the subject and there are many things I left out all together, is there anything specific that I mentioned that I could elaborate on? Someone else here who has incorporated might be able to help more since most of my experience is from the waste disposal aspect of things although that served to give a nice general overview of most of this process.

Best of luck,

[Edited on 11/3/2007 by BromicAcid]

RxnJackson - 4-11-2007 at 13:33

Thanks for the heads up Bromic. Much of your discussion are things I have passed by durring my many hours of relenting search. Exactly as you said, the information I need seems to be spread amongst a number of agencies. Seeing as my company only has 9 full time employees, and we are very small, I see myself currently doing most if not all of the chemistry work (at least until we grow enough to hire a chemist specifically).

I guess what I'm most concerned about is having the EPA, police, or fire dept. show up at my door one day and either a) fine me out of buisiness, or b) file some sort of criminal charge. You are absolutely correct when you refer to their resposibilities not being education but incarceration and enforcement. Ignorance of the law has never been a reasonable excuse. Having multiple chemicals that could be considered precursors, though used for legitimate buisiness use scares me as I'm not understanding how the gov't can accuse home chemists of intent to manufacture, whether they find residual substances or not. Where is the line, and is it different for a profitable buisiness?

I guess what I really need to do is seek a lawyer, which was my long-term plan anyhow. I was simply hoping to educate myself a little more before I get hosed with legal bills. There are a number of things that are not practical for a buisiness of my size, thus I want to comply with only what I absolutely need to (and makes sense re safety), for example, I realize that OSHA regulates much of the chemistry buisiness, it also regulates everything else. We are not "required" to be OSHA compliant (privatly held companies in my state are not required if employees know before taking the job) and have never been inspected up to this point. Is entering this line of buisiness going to require that kind of compliance and does the compliance need to carry over to all my other areas of this buisiness as well?

EPA compliance is another question I need to dig into, it seems that this could be the most costly next to actual criminal concerns.

I found some excellent info from OSHA after your response on chemical storage, there are a few things they define as "nice to haves" and some things they define as "legally required." For example, MSDS sheets are mandatory and required, as well as basic training for employees using the chemicals. The rest of it, storage, marking chems, proper air cirulation, etc are all described as reccomendations (probably a good way to reduce liability though). Though I'm sure EPA regulations are different.

The cost of re-organizing my buisiness around a small service to customers is not reasonable, however implementing cautious practices and following the law is necessary. I guess I really just need to call my lawyer :(

I'm totally open to additional discussion and would be more than happy to share some of the PDF's I have captured from OSHA and the EPA if anyone wants to PM and explain how to attach a file to message, that would be assuming this kind of discussion is remotely interesting to anyone else out there (my guess would be that many home chemists and small buisinesses are actually lacking knowledge about these kinds of regualtions and what our responsiblities are).


chemrox - 4-11-2007 at 22:32

Lawyers will make you affraid to do anything. I had some good conversations with DEA awhile ago. Felt relieved afterword. Send me a PM to discuss further.

evil_lurker - 5-11-2007 at 05:53

The problem with lawyers is that they are neither fire marshals, OSHA inspectors, or EPA agents, and likely to have little or no knowledge of industry rules and regulations.

The best thing to do would be to consider finding a certified free-lance industrial hygienist and have them come in and do an audit of your facilities and pay them on an hourly fee basis.

For storage would suggest getting a dedicated building for the reagents and solvents. All you need is one of those 20 foot ocean shipping container cubes and modify it for chemical storage purposes. IIRC, you can get around most of the National Fire Prevention code crap by locating it 75-100 feet from any other occupied building. Then whenever you need a reagent you simply go get the quantity out that you need and take it back to the lab. I'm guessing that after adding power, climate control, delivery and what not it will cost in the neighborhood of $3-10K depending on how you spec it.

[Edited on 5-11-2007 by evil_lurker]

RxnJackson - 5-11-2007 at 07:08

Lurker, an additional storage facility next to the main facility is a good thought, however, currently, zoning prevents me from any possible additional facilities on my property. One thought I had was to purchase a fire cabinet (solvent cabinet), which would certainly be less expensive than the $3-10k it may cost me to add a seperate storage facility. The building is a typical framed building though (not concrete) which may be an issue. OSHA recommends storage of the flammable solvents in a fire-proof solvent cabinet, and then separation of their five main class of chems (Flammable, Reactive and oxidizing agents, Toxic/Health, corrosive, and inert). I also plan to order the smallst quantity for what I need at the time and then dispose of the remainder (I know this is a cardinal sin when there are so many home chemists here that are having issues getting chemicals at all, but surly it's the safest route).

Your reference to a certified consultant is a good one. Having a lawyer do the research would cost me thousands, it may still cost thousands to have a consultant come in, but at least they are the expert in the field and can interpret industry standards properly for someone of my size. A lawyer would be much more likely to interpret the law as in-flexible, and a hygienist might be more likely to interpret the intent and meaning of a policy, with reasonable alternatives.

Eclectic - 5-11-2007 at 07:14

I asked my fire marshal about the requirements for storage of solvents during a fire inspection and was told that nothing special was needed for less than 60 gallons total. (Eastern USA)

contrived - 13-12-2007 at 16:53

After looking at the latest DEA list and comparing it with our cabinets we decided we'd better get registered .. pretty soon, even pottery suppliers will have to have DEA numbers. Here's a paragraph from the letter to our state board we didn't send:

"Currently we are doing research on colorimetric methods in quantifying components of biodiesel. However the DEA Precursor lists now include most of the contents of a 1950 Gilbert Chemistry Set so we thought we’d better get registration."

We changed it. We don't want any extra hoops for shitty attitude.

quicksilver - 19-12-2007 at 04:51

I think that's an intelligent way of dealing with the climate we live in today. However what is sad; is that's it true.

Many would say "Thank the drug cooks for this nonsense" but in reality the issue goes a bit deeper. While the drug cooks have brought the issue to the surface; it's the federal response to re-election agenda that is the root issue , IMO. "Blame the DEA" is also too superficial. The climate of hysteria is fostered by re-election messages that whip up hysteria and the rest follows....

In no way am I resisting placing responsibility on the above agencies and individuals but the fish rots from the head, no?

chemrox - 19-12-2007 at 23:19

Yes-I agree with Quick on this. They just exploited the amphetamine hysteria and 911 paranoia to gain more control. And there's so much shit they can get us on, and I mean everybody, we've become affraid to raise hell about it.