Coalition for Responsible Waste Incineration
April 2, 1999
Docket Control Office (7407)
RE: Docket OPPTS-400132
The Coalition for Responsible Waste Incineration (CRWI) is pleased to submit comments on the Persistent Boiaccumulative Toxic (PBT) Chemicals; Proposed Rule (Federal Register, January 5, 1999). CRWI represents nine companies with either captive or commercial hazardous waste incineration interests. These companies account for a significant portion of the U.S. capacity for hazardous waste incineration. In addition, CRWI is advised by a number of academic members with research interests in hazardous waste incineration. Since its inception, CRWI has encouraged its members to reduce the generation of hazardous waste. However, for certain hazardous waste streams, CRWI believes that incineration is a safe and effective method of treatment, reducing both the volume and toxicity of the waste treated. CRWI seeks to help its member companies both to improve their incineration operations and to provide lawmakers and regulators helpful data and comments.
CRWI supports the concept of the public's right-to-know and the reporting of releases to the environment of certain chemicals. CRWI also supports the development of databases that present an accurate assessment of the environmental hazards from chemical emissions. However, CRWI is concerned that this rule, as proposed, will provide a misleading picture of the public's exposure to dioxins. In response to an earlier proposed rule (Federal Register, May 7, 1997), CRWI suggested that adding chemicals without adjusting the threshold would not contribute to the public's right-to-know (comments dated September 4, 1997). CRWI agrees with the Agency that it is reasonable to combine the listing processes with the lowering of the thresholds. CRWI also agrees with the agency that listing a chemical that would not be reported does not help the public's right-to know.
However, other CRWI concerns have not been addressed in this proposed rule. These are: will the majority of known sources be required to report under this proposed rule; and how accurate will the measurements/estimates of the emissions be? In addition, this proposed rule has raised two other issues: the manner in which dioxin and dioxin-like compounds will be reported; and the accuracy of reporting for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. These issues will be discussed in the following paragraphs.
Will the Majority of the Known Sources Report?
The purpose of the proposed rule, among other things, is to inform the public on emissions of dioxins. However, because many of the known sources (including many of the larger sources) of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are not required to report under this rule, it is unlikely that this goal will be accomplished. For EPA to accomplish the goal of informing the public, it is important that the majority of the known sources of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds report emissions. Without such reporting, the TRI database on dioxin and dioxin-like compounds will be inaccurate and present biased reporting of the potential exposures to human health and the environment. CRWI (in their September 4, 1997, comments) estimated that six percent of the air emissions and five percent of the releases to the land of dioxin-like compounds will be reported. While EPA has updated this data, there are few changes in the relative contribution of the industries that are required to report. Obviously, the failure to require reporting for an overwhelming portion of the releases or to incorporate such a small portion of the total data base into EPA's annual release report would result in very misleading data.
The development of an accurate dioxin release database is further complicated because potentially large sources may not yet be identified. Work since the 1994 EPA draft documents on dioxin exposure have developed more accurate estimates but the new estimates have not helped clear up the mass balance problem. In fact, these new estimates suggest that the gap between known sources of dioxin and dioxin deposition is larger rather than smaller. CRWI suggests that the development of a TRI database on dioxin and dioxin-like compounds should not be attempted until the majority of the known sources are required to report and the mass balance discrepancy has been addressed. Otherwise, the development of a TRI database on dioxin emissions from a limited number of sources would be inaccurate and would mislead the public.
One potential way to make the TRI data base more clear is for EPA to state in the preamble and in the rule that the current TRI reporting scheme is expected to result in only a small percentage of the known sources of dioxin and dioxin-like compound emissions to the environment. In addition, CRWI suggests that the Agency, when TRI data for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are published, place a statement in the report that clearly indicates the percentage of total dioxin and dioxin-like compound emissions that these numbers represent. This percentage could change on a year-to-year basis depending upon the number of industries reporting and updates to the total dioxin and dioxin-like compounds emission estimates. This would help bring the emissions data from individual facilities into perspective.
How Accurate Will the Measurements/Estimates be?
At this time, there are no methods for estimating dioxin and dioxin-like compound emissions. Thus, accurate methods of measuring and/or estimating emissions must be established. EPCRA does not require additional testing; it only requires reporting of existing data or in the absence of data, no reporting or best estimates of emissions. Since dioxin and dioxin-like compounds are emitted at very low levels, testing is difficult and expensive under the best of circumstances. Because of this, facilities are reluctant to test for dioxin emissions. The two industries that will be testing and are required to report under EPCRA for dioxins are the pulp and paper industry and the hazardous waste combustion industry. Testing for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds in the hazardous waste combustion industry has already begun but will not be routinely applied until the currently proposed MACT standards are promulgated (summer 1999). With a three-year compliance period, routine testing for the waste combustion industry may not begin until 2002. For the rest of the potential sources and for the hazardous waste combustion sources in the short-term, a method of estimating dioxin emissions will have to be established. Dioxin is not intentionally produced in any manufacturing process. Because it is a by-product of a planned reaction or a combustion process, it will be a challenge to develop a methodology to estimate dioxin emissions from an individual source let alone a wide magnitude of potential sources.
One possible outcome of this is that sources that do not have to measure dioxin emissions could simply estimate their emissions as zero. In fact, there will be a strong incentive for facilities that do not have measurements to do just that. Thus, the only data that will be reported will be based on the few industries that are required to measure dioxin, giving skewed and misleading data on dioxin emissions. Therefore, it is imperative that a standard methodology for estimating dioxin emissions be developed prior to requiring reporting. Otherwise, the development of a TRI database on dioxin emissions would be inaccurate and misleading. This concern further supports CRWI's suggestions noted previously.
EPA chose to propose reporting dioxin and dioxin-like compounds as actual amounts with a reporting threshold of 0.1 g per year. However, the reporting of actual amounts does not take into consideration that a portion of the amount reported may be in a form that are minimally toxic. Reporting of actual releases will make it difficult to judge the impact of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds on the environment, which is the purpose of TRI. As the Agency pointed out, reporting as toxic equivalents has some down-side. However, CRWI suggests that while some of the arguments about not reporting dioxin and dioxin-like compounds as toxic equivalents (TEQ) make sense, others do not. CRWI would like to point out that EPA has always treated dioxin and dioxin-like compounds differently. This is evidenced in this rule by requiring the threshold to be 0.1g instead of the 10 pounds as would be dictated by the half-life and bioaccumulation factors.
In addition, CRWI suggests that emissions of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds be reported in pounds. All other chemicals in the TRI data base are reported in pounds. CRWI sees no logical reason for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds to be reported in any other units. The use of different units would only add to the confusion already created by the small percentage of emitters that will be required to report. Thus, CRWI suggests that dioxin and dioxin-like compounds should be reported as TEQ's with a threshold of 0.00022 pounds (TEQ). Since 2,3,7,8-tetrachloredibenzo-p-dioxin has a TEF of 1.0, this will not change the threshold of the dioxin compound that is considered by the Agency as the most toxic. It would only change the dioxin and dioxin-like compounds that have lesser TEFs.
Accuracy of Reporting Dioxins
CRWI agrees with the agency that quantities of chemicals in the 10-pound threshold category should be reported to an accuracy of 0.1 pound. However, CRWI does not agree with the reporting of dioxin-like compounds to an accuracy level of 0.00000022 pounds (100 micrograms). Since only a few facilities will have any measurements (and these are made only every few years), estimations at this level of accuracy makes little sense. CRWI suggests that the level of accuracy for reporting dioxin-like compounds should be the same order of magnitude as are the rest of the PBT chemicals. Otherwise, estimations will be made on extremely small numbers that will have no real meaning.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposed rule. If you have any questions please contact me (phone: 202-775-9869; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Melvin E. Keener, Ph.D.