Sewer Prohibition

The Pharmaceuticals Rule includes a Sewer Prohibition that reduces the amount of Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals (HWPs) that are currently being disposed of down the drain by healthcare facilities. This Sewer Prohibition became effective nationally on August 21, 2019.

Many healthcare facilities have used drain disposal as a routine disposal method for pharmaceutical wastes, including those that are hazardous wastes. Drain disposal was an allowable disposal method for HWPs under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), prior to the Hazardous Waste Pharmaceutical Rule. However, the Clean Water Act prohibits drain disposal of ignitable wastes and wastes that can produce toxic gases, vapor and fumes at the Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW.)

Regulatory Requirements

The Sewer Prohibition is found in 40 CFR § 266.505. Under this provision, all healthcare facilities including Very Small Quantity Generators (VSQG) operating under the generator requirements in lieu of Subpart P and reverse distributors, are prohibited from discharging Hazardous Waste Pharmaceuticals (HWP) to a sewer system that passes through to a publicly-owned treatment works. HWPs that are also controlled substances under the Drug Enforcement Act (DEA) are also subject to the ban, as sewer disposal does not meet the DEA non-retrievable standard for destruction. Healthcare facilities and reverse distributors remain subject to the prohibitions in 40 CFR § 403.5(b)(1) related to the sewering of hazardous wastes. Additionally, HWPs may not be disposed of through drains (sinks, toilets, etc.) connected to an on-site septic tank drain field.

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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