Casually disposing of used motor oil harms the natural environment as well as your finances if the authorities fine you for illegal dumping. The Environmental Protection Agency defines illegal dumping as the disposal of waste in an area where it is not expressly permitted and used as a disposal area, such as a storm drain or unmarked roadside. This environmentally unfriendly act can contaminate drinking water sources and affect the water quality in streams, rivers and lakes. States and municipalities enforce the applicable rules.
It is illegal to dispose of oil in an unauthorized area. Individuals or businesses may engage in illegal dumping for the sake of convenience or to avoid hazardous waste disposal or recycling fees, which are often levied by businesses that provide oil changes as a service. Often, illegal dumping takes place at night to avoid detection; roadsides and remote, uninhabited tracts of land are the frequent targets.
There are many varieties of hazardous waste in addition to motor oil. City, county and state laws cover the proper methods of disposing of or recycling waste materials. Texas and many other states have set up used oil collection centers. To encourage lawful disposal, some of these jurisdictions, such as the city of Los Angeles, hold weekly or monthly oil recycling events. California-certified recycling centers will pay four cents per quart or 16 cents per gallon of clean, used motor oil, and will accept up to 15 gallons of motor oil per person per day.
Fines for illegal oil dumping vary from one municipality to the next. In Chicago, for example, dumping waste without a permit can result in a fine of up to $2,000 and six months in jail, as well as up to 200 hours of community service. The city can also hold violators liable for triple the cost of cleanup. In Utah, a violation of the used oil disposal law can result in a fine of up to $10,000. Several jurisdictions, including Dallas, have set up hotlines for whistleblowers. The Dallas County Illegal Dumping Hotline offers a $50 reward if the illegal dumping report leads to an arrest and conviction.
It's important to note that simply stowing oil in a container, then setting the container out for collection or bringing it to a dump, would also be a violation of hazardous waste disposal law. Oil must be separated from normal household waste and brought to a dedicated recycling or collection center. Failing to properly dispose of oil may violate local and state ordinances, but the EPA allows a "household waste exemption" that exempts from federal regulations any hazardous waste generated by normal household activities.