Tuesday, February 14, 2012

EPA Issues Final Rules For PVC Production Facilities

Feb 14: U.S. EPA issued what it called strong final standards requiring facilities that produce polyvinyl chloride and copolymers (PVC) to reduce harmful air emissions, and said they will improve air quality and protect people's health in communities where facilities are located. Exposure to toxic air pollutants, like those emitted from PVC facilities, can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, and can increase the risk of developing cancer. In particular, children are known to be more sensitive to the cancer risks posed by inhaling vinyl chloride, one of the known carcinogens emitted from PVC facilities.

    EPA said the final standards are based on currently available technologies and will reduce emissions of air toxics, such as dioxin and vinyl chloride. Facilities will have the flexibility to choose the most practical and cost-effective control technology or technique to reduce the emissions. Facilities will be required to monitor emissions at certain points in the PVC production process to ensure that the standards are met. EPA had a 74-day public comment period and held two public hearings on the proposal before issuing the final rule.

    Currently, there are 17 PVC production facilities throughout the United States, with a majority of these facilities located in Louisiana and Texas. All existing and any new PVC production facilities are covered by the final rule. PVC production facilities manufacture PVC resins that are used to make a large number of commercial and industrial products at other manufacturing facilities. These products include latex paints, coatings, adhesives, clear plastics, rigid plastics, and flooring.
    The final rule regulating emissions limits for air toxics from polyvinyl chloride and copolymers production and sets maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for major sources and generally available control technology (GACT) for area sources of PVC production. Emissions sources addressed in the rule include PVC process vents, stripped resin, equipment leaks, wastewater, heat exchangers, and storage vessels. The final rule sets emission limits and work practice standards for total organic air toxics, and also for three specific air toxics: vinyl chloride, chlorinated di-benzo dioxins and furans (CDDF), and hydrogen chloride. This is a change from the previous rule, which set an emission limit for vinyl chloride only, and used vinyl chloride as a surrogate for all other air toxics.
    There are currently 15 major and two area source PVC facilities in the United States. They are located in eight states: Delaware (one), Illinois (one), Kentucky (one), Louisiana (six), Michigan (one), Mississippi (one), New Jersey (two) and Texas (four). There are no small businesses. The annual emission reductions from major sources are estimated to be 238 tons of total air toxics, 21 tons of hydrogen chloride, and 0.017 grams of CDDF. The annual emission reductions from area sources are 24 tons of total air toxics. The final rule replaces the previous rule for larger emitting PVC production facilities (major sources) EPA issued in July 2002. That rule was vacated by the District of Columbia Circuit Court as a result of a petition. The final rule also amends the existing air toxic rule for smaller emitting PVC production facilities (area sources) that EPA issued in 2007.    

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access a fact sheet on the final rule (click here). Access the prepublication copy of the 491-page final rule (click here). [#Air]
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