A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 NOVEMBER 1995


Announced on October 31, 1995
Part 1

On October 31, 1995, the US EPA issued a press release announcing the new federal standards and guidelines for Municipal Waste Combustors (MWC’s). The information in this 3-part series was accessed from the EPA’s electronic bulletin board, Technology Transfer Network*. The new standards will be published in the Federal Register in late November 1995.

Background: “The standards and guidelines implement sections 111 and 129 of the Clean Air Act and are based on the Administrator’s determination that MWC’s cause, or contribute significantly to, air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. The standards and guidelines apply to Municipal Waste Combustor [MWC] units at plants with aggregate capacities to combust greater than 40 tons per day of municipal solid waste (MSW) and require sources to achieve emission levels reflecting the maximum degree of reduction in emissions of air pollutants that the Administrator determined is achievable, taking into consideration the cost of achieving such emission reduction, and any non-air-quality health and environmental impacts and energy requirements. The promulgated standards and guidelines establish emission levels for MWC organics (dioxins/furans), MWC metals (cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), particulate matter (PM), and opacity), MWC acid gases (hydrogen chloride (HCL) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), and MWC fugitive ash emissions. Some of the pollutants being regulated are considered to be carcinogens and at sufficient concentrations can cause toxic effects following exposure. The standards and guidelines also establish requirements for MWC operating practices (carbon monoxide (CO), load, flue gas temperature at the PM control device inlet, and operator training/certification). Additionally, the standards for new MWC plants also require a siting analysis and materials separation plan.**

Health and Other Effects

Dioxins/Furans: Mortality, Morbidity, Carcinogenicity.

Metals: Retardation and brain damage; Hypertension; Central nervous system injury; Renal dysfunction.

Acid gases: Materials damage; Dental erosion; Acid rain; Mortality, Morbidity; Respiratory tract problems, permanent harm to lung; Soiling and materials damage; Reduced agricultural yield; Ozone formation.

Particulate Matter: Mortality, Morbidity; Eye and throat irritation, bronchitis, lung damage; Impaired visibility; Soiling and materials damage.

History of Regulations: “By the mid 1980s, several studies had been performed to determine whether MWC emissions should be regulated and, if so, under what section of the Clean Air Act. As set forth in the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (52 FR 25399, July 7, 1987), the EPA decided to regulate air emissions from MWC’s under section 111 of the Clean Air Act, and to base the regulation on best demonstrated technology, as required by section 111. On December 20, 1989, the EPA proposed standards for new MWC’s and guidelines for existing MWC’s (54 FR 52251 and 54 FR 52209, respectively). On November 15, 1990, Amendments to the Clean Air Act were enacted and added section 129 to the Clean Air Act. Section 129 of the Clean Air Act specifies that revised standards and guidelines must be developed for MWC’s in accordance with the requirements of both section 111 and new section 129. Section 129 further specifies that revised standards and guidelines be developed for both large and small MWC plants and that the revised standards and guidelines must reflect more restrictive performance levels. Section 129 includes a schedule for revising the 1991 standards and guidelines. When the EPA did not comply with the section 129 schedule, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Integrated Waste Services Association filed complaints with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The resulting consent decree required the EPA Administrator to sign a notice of proposed rulemaking not later than September 1, 1994 and a notice of promulgation not later than October 31, 1995. (Nos. CV-92-2093, CV-93-0284, and CV-93-5144). The proposal notice for the standards and guidelines was signed as scheduled and published on September 20, 1994 (59 FR 48198 and 59 FR 48228, respectively). This notice responds to the requirement for the Administrator to sign the final standards and guidelines by October 31, 1995. The standards and guidelines promulgated on February 11, 1991 (56 FR 5488 and 56 FR 5514, respectively) apply to only large MWC’s (capacities above 250 tons-per-day) and reflect best demonstrated technology. Today’s notice promulgates revised standards and guidelines that are fully consistent with sections 111 and 129 of the Clean Air Act and extend coverage of the revised standards and guidelines to MWC units located at MWC plants with aggregate plant capacity above 40 tons-per-day...Congress specifically added section 129 to the Clean Air Act to address public concerns about MWC’s and other solid waste combustion units. Under section 111, performance standards and guidelines must be developed for new and existing stationary sources that may contribute to air pollution and that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. Under section 129 of the Clean Air Act, the standards and guidelines adopted for MWC’s must be based on MACT [maximum achievable control technology]. Independent of Clean Air Act requirements, the general public is concerned about emissions from all sources including MWC’s. This is understandable considering (1) about two-thirds of the MWC population is located in air quality nonattainment areas with high population densities, and (2) the EPA’s 1994 MWC Dioxin Survey identified a limited number of older poorly controlled MWC’s with atypically high dioxin/furan emissions (interim corrective actions have been taken at these MWC’s [see Waste Not #s 345,346]). The MWC industry has aggressively controlled new MWC plants built since 1990, and almost half of the existing population currently is equipped with high efficiency air pollution control equipment. The other older half of the population has control equipment with lower efficiency. As mentioned earlier, health effects are associated with many of the pollutants emitted from MWC’s, and the standards and guidelines being promulgated today will bring all MWC units up to the same high performance level. The EPA estimates that in the United States, there are about 307 operating MWC units [boilers] at 128 plants, providing a total U.S. MSW combustion capacity of about 94,000 mg/day (megagrams per day). Approximately 16 percent of MSW generated in the United States is combusted...Section 129 (a) (2) of the Clean Air Act requires the revised standards for new MWC’s and revised guidelines for existing MWC’s to reflect the maximum degree of reduction in emissions of designated air pollutants, taking into consideration the cost of achieving such emission reduction, and any non-air-quality health and environmental impacts and energy requirements that the Administrator determines are achievable for a particular category of sources. (This control level is commonly referred to as the ‘maximum achievable control technology, or ‘MACT’). Section 129 also provides that standards for new sources may not be less stringent than the emissions control achieved in practice by the best controlled similar unit. This is commonly referred to as the ‘MACT floor’ for new MWC units. Additionally, section 129 provides that the emission limitations in the guidelines for existing MWC’s may not be less stringent than the average emission limitations achieved by the best performing 12 percent of units in the category. This is commonly referred to as the “MACT floor” for existing MWC units. Emission control options less stringent than the MACT floor can not be considered in developing section 129 standards and guidelines. Technical data on the number and size of MWC’s, control technologies in use, permit emission limits, and emission test data were used to determine the MACT floor for new and existing MWC’s and to define control alternatives. The types of data EPA considered in selecting final standards and guidelines included the following: (1) Over 100 MWC plant-specific questionnaires; (2) emissions information from literature, and State and local agencies; and (3) EPA and industry test reports. Overall, the EPA used performance test data from over 60 MWC plants to develop the standards and guidelines. After proposal, the EPA reviewed additional data submitted with public comments on the proposal and data that EPA gathered from States and industry. Based on the new information, the EPA reviewed both the proposed MACT determinations for new and existing MWC’s and the regulatory alternatives. The reassessment of the standards and guidelines in light of the new data resulted in the EPA revising the MACT emission rates for some pollutants...

Municipal Waste Combustor is defined as any setting or equipment that combusts MSW including air curtain incinerators. Municipal solid waste combustion includes the direct combustion of MSW or the combustion of MSW gases from pyrolysis or gasification. The MWC unit includes any type of setting or equipment including combustion equipment with or without heat recovery.

Municipal Solid Waste or municipal-type solid waste means household, commercial/retail, and/or institutional waste. Household waste includes material discarded by single and multiple residential dwellings, hotels, motels, and other similar permanent or temporary housing establishments or facilities. Commercial/retail waste includes material discarded by stores, offices, restaurants, warehouses, nonmanufacturing activities at industrial facilities, and other similar establishments or facilities. Institutional waste includes waste discarded by hospitals, material discarded by nonmanufacturing activities at prisons and government facilities, and material discarded by other similar establishments or facilities. Household, commercial/retail, and institutional waste does not include used oil; sewage sludge; wood pallets; construction\renovation, and demolition wastes (which include, but is not limited to railroad ties and telephone poles); clean wood; industrial process or manufacturing wastes; medical waste; or motor vehicles (including motor vehicle parts or vehicle fluff). Household, commercial/retail, and institutional wastes include (1) yard waste, (2) refuse-derived fuel, and (3) motor vehicle maintenance materials limited to vehicle batteries and tires except as specified in § 60.50 b (g)...Although these wastes are not MSW, they can be intermixed with MSW and can be combusted in MWC plants. The regulations do not prohibit their combustion.

* EPA’s Technology Transfer Network is accessible 24 hours per day, 7 days per week except Mon. morning from 8 am to 12 pm when the system is updated. The service is free except for the cost of the phone call. Dial 919-541-5742 to access the TNN. Further instructions for accessing the TNN can be obtained by calling the help desk at 919-541-5384.

** Materials separation plan means a plan that identifies both a goal and an approach to separate certain components of municipal solid waste for a given service area in order to make the separated materials available for recycling. A materials separation plan may include elements such as dropoff facilities, buy-back or deposit-return incentives, curbside pickup programs, or centralized mechanical separation systems. A materials separation plan may include different goals or approaches for different subareas in the service area, and may include no materials separation activities for certain subareas or service area.

WASTE NOT # 351. A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US50; Overseas $70.

Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, New York 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.