In a matter of days, Americans have been asked to stay home as states across the country issue orders requiring non-essential businesses to cease operations. Given the essential public health role of the waste and recycling industries, however, these industries must continue service. This alert explores how the Department of Homeland Security and most states that have issued “stay at home” orders recognize the waste industry as an essential service, allowing the industry to continue operating during these unprecedented times.
Waste Industry Deemed “Essential Critical Infrastructure” by Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) has recognized solid and hazardous waste collection workers and wastewater treatment workers as part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. This classification identifies workers who conduct operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure and it is intended to help state and local officials as they contemplate how to protect their communities from COVID-19. CISA listed the following waste industry personnel as critical infrastructure workers:
Transportation and Logistics
- Truck drivers who haul hazardous and waste materials to support critical infrastructure, capabilities, functions, and services.
- Workers at nuclear facilities, workers managing medical waste, workers managing waste from pharmaceuticals and medical material production, and workers at laboratories processing test kits;
- Workers who support hazardous materials response and cleanup; and
- Workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting hazardous materials management operations.
Water and Wastewater
- Employees needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including:
- Operational staff at water authorities;
- Operational staff at community water systems;
- Operational staff at wastewater treatment facilities;
- Workers repairing water and wastewater conveyances and performing required sampling or monitoring;
- Operational staff for water distribution and testing;
- Operational staff at wastewater collection facilities;
- Operational staff and technical support for SCADA Control systems;
- Chemical suppliers for wastewater and personnel protection; and
- Workers that maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting water and wastewater operations.
- Support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste.
These classifications provide a significant benefit to the waste industry. While state, local, tribal, and territorial governments are ultimately in charge of implementing response activities in their communities, states across the nation are looking to CISA’s guidance to determine which businesses and employees to deem essential. As illustrated below, 16 out of 22 states that have issued “stay at home” orders follow the CISA guidance.
How the Current “Stay at Home” Orders Impact the Waste Industry by State