Axing Air Pollutants

AN ESTIMATED 150 facilities that burn hazardous waste (hazwaste) — including some that burn it for energy — could soon be forced to reduce air pollutant emissions, according to a recently proposed rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C.

The proposed rule is designed to cut some 3,500 tons of pollutants per year, including lead, mercury, arsenic, dioxin and furans, and hydrogen chloride and chlorine gas, from five types of combustion sources that burn hazardous waste, according to the agency. Facilities that would be affected operate such burning sources as incinerators, cement kilns, lightweight aggregate kilns, boilers and hydrochloric acid production furnaces.

According to the EPA, the rule is designed to limit the amount of air toxics that can be released from exhaust stacks of new and existing hazwaste combustors, regardless of whether they are major air pollutant sources. Major sources, as defined by the Clean Air Act, emit 10 tons or more per year of a single air toxic, or 25 tons or more per year of a combination of air toxics.

Of the 276 hazwaste burning sources operating nationwide, an estimated 150 would be subject to the rule, and approximately $77.9 million would be spent annually on engineering and compliance costs to meet the new standards, the EPA predicts. However, the agency believes the benefits from the proposal range from $4.6 million to $10.3 million, in addition to nonquantifiable ecological and human health benefits. Exposure to hazardous air pollutant emissions has been shown to cause skin, lung and mucus membrane irritations, kidney damage and cancer.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to develop rules to reduce hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from categories of sources that emit one or more of 188 listed HAPs, and require the application of strict emissions controls based maximum control technology (MACT) performance.

The EPA is accepting public comments on its proposal until July 6, 2004. Once finalized, existing hazardous waste combustors would have three years to comply with the regulations, or could petition for an extra year to comply. New hazardous waste combustors would be subject to emission limitations once the new rule is issued, or upon startup, whichever is later.

Submit comments on the proposal no later than July 6 online at and identify them by Docket ID No. OAR-2004-0022, or mail: OAR Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: B102, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20460. For more information, contact Michael Galbraith at (703) 605-0567. E-mail: [email protected]. Web site: