Volume 8, Number 3
A Gossman Consulting, Inc. Publication
March 2003

Should a QA/QC Plan be Part of a WAP/FAP or Permit?


David Gossman, Gossman Consulting, Inc.


The quick answer is NO!  Some state and EPA region permit writers are working hard to include QA/QC Plans in WAPS/FAPs or permits for RCRA/BIF/MACT facilities.  There is no regulatory support for this position and there are important reasons that environmental and facility managers need to fight this trend. 

Why is this a problem?

A well written QA/QC Plan for a commercial hazardous waste facility laboratory, as well as the associated SOPs, are highly detailed “living” documents that should undergo continuous review and updating as technology and facility needs change.  Locking such a plan (or the associated SOPs) into the long term rigid environment of a WAP/FAP or permit does not serve the needs of the facility or protection of people and the environment.   The only reason for such a tactic on the part of a permit writer is to develop a framework for future paperwork based notices of violation.  Once locked into a WAP/FAP or permit, upgrades in equipment or methods as well as any changes based on facility or waste stream specific data quality objective (DQO) changes get tied to time consuming and costly permit modifications that can actually interfere with proper protection of human health and safety and the environment. 

When a QA/QC Plan (or SOPs) are included in a WAP/FAP or permit they become subject to a nit-picking review process by permit writers, other regulatory ‘experts’ and contractors who rarely have any understanding of commercial facility operations and needs.  These permit writers and ‘experts’ are generally familiar with QA/QC plans for commercial laboratories, test burns and/or site clean-ups.  Those QA/QC plans have significant differences with the operational environment at a hazardous waste facility and adoption of their ‘suggestions’ can result in very costly ‘enhancements’ to a facility’s QA/QC plan.

  Why is it being done?

Bottom line – because they think they have the authority.  They do not.  There is no regulatory requirement for a WAP/FAP or permit to contain the QA/QC plan for the facility.  There is no support in SW-846 for such a position – in contrast, there is considerable support in SW-846 and its federal register preamble for flexibility on such issues.   No regulator has made a case for why this issue is covered by omnibus authority.  Finally, EPA’s own guidance on WAPs, including example WAPs themselves, do not include QA/QC plans.

Negotiating Options

That said, there are some negotiating options that can be used to deal with this issue.  The QA/QC plan can be referenced in the permit.  It is a required, enforceable on-site document requirement and there is no harm in referencing it as such in a permit.  There are highly specific circumstances where specific QA/QC requirements may be included in a permit.   An example would be for determining whether or not a waste is hazardous.  These are already regulatory requirements.  If this is included, make sure there is a caveat that allows regulatory changes to take precedence over the permit to avoid conflicting requirements.  

There is no harm including a summary of general QA/QC work that will be done as part of the QA/QC plan in the WAP/FAP.  GCI includes such a summary as a matter of course, many times heading off this issue in advance.  Such a summary must be carefully worded to avoid specifics that might conflict with a properly prepared QA/QC plan.  Remember a well-prepared QA/QC plan:

Visit gcisolutions.com for more information on establishing data quality objections and QA/QC plans.