Proposed EPA Standards Attempt To Cut Municipal Incinerator Emissions

Washington, D.C. - In an attempt to slash dioxin emissions by 99 percent and to vastly reduce other air pollutants, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed air standards for municipal waste incinerators nationwide. The proposed regulation, required in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, establishes federal standards for all new waste incinerators and gives guidelines for states to set standards for about 180 plants currently in operation.

When the proposal is finalized in September 1995, it will affect incinerators that burn 40 tons of trash or more per day. Existing plants will have one to three years to comply; new plants must comply upon startup.

The proposal requires more stringent pollution control equipment and increases the number of pollutants regulated. New incinerators will be required to have a materials separation/recycling plan; an incinerator plant siting analysis; and public involvement early in the planning stage.

Under the regulation, emission limits must reflect the use of maximum achievable control technology. Scrubbers, or their equivalent technology, must be installed at new plants to reduce metal emissions, such as lead, by more than 99 percent; dioxins and other organic chemical emissions by more than 99 percent; acid gas emissions, including sulfur dioxide, by 90 to 95 percent; mercury by 85 percent; and nitrogen oxide gases by 45 percent.

Emissions of toxic and respiratory air pollutants such as dioxin, lead, cadmium, mercury, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide would be reduced by 145,000 tons a year. The EPA projects that resulting costs will be about $450 million a year for existing incinerators and $43 million annually for new incinerators, according to Hazardous Waste Business.

The combustion of lead acid batteries will be addressed in a separate proposal. The agency is still evaluating the most environmentally sound method for managing such batteries, said an official.