The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing two new hazardous waste rules aimed at protecting U.S. waterways and improving the labeling process of hazardous waste.

One of the proposed rules is intended to protect waterways, including drinking and surface water, by preventing the flushing of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals and simplify the requirements for healthcare workers. The other rule would provide greater flexibility to industry while requiring new safeguards to protect the public from mismanagement of hazardous waste, according to the EPA.

“These rules provide businesses with certainty and the flexibility they need to successfully operate in today’s marketplace,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “The proposals will improve the safety and health of our communities by providing clear, flexible, and protective hazardous waste management standards.”

EPA says the proposed hazardous waste pharmaceuticals rule will make U.S. drinking and surface water safer and healthier by reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals entering waterways. EPA’s proposal is projected to prevent the flushing of more than 6,400 tons of hazardous waste pharmaceuticals annually by banning healthcare facilities from flushing hazardous waste pharmaceuticals down the sink and toilet.

EPA says the proposed rule will reduce the burden on healthcare workers and pharmacists working in healthcare facilities by creating a specific set of regulations for these facilities, including hospitals, clinics, and retail stores with pharmacies and reverse distributors that generate hazardous waste.

EPA’s proposed generator rule would improve labeling of hazardous waste and emergency planning and preparedness. The proposal would also reduce burden by providing greater flexibility in how facilities and employees manage their hazardous waste and make the regulations easier to understand, the EPA says.

“Over the last 35 years, we’ve heard from states and the regulated community that our hazardous waste generator regulations, which were designed for manufacturing, don’t fit all sectors and especially not the healthcare sector,” wrote Stanislaus in an Aug. 31 blog post. “We’ve listened and these two proposals make a number of updates and improvements to the existing regulations. We have proposed over 60 changes to the regulations to improve the effectiveness of and compliance with the hazardous waste generator program. This includes rearranging some of the generator regulations that had outgrown their original numbering system so it will be easier for facilities of all sizes that generate hazardous waste to find everything they need to know in one place.”

EPA solicited public comment on improving hazardous waste management from states, healthcare facilities, retailers, facilities generating hazardous waste, and other key stakeholders. EPA says both proposals directly address the challenges raised by these stakeholders in implementing and complying with hazardous waste regulations.

The Agency will accept public comments on the proposal for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register.

For additional information on these proposed rules, including how to submit comments, visit: http://www2.epa.gov/hwgenerators.