Environmental Protection

Emissions Rules Tighten for Medical Waste Incinerators

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new limits on air emissions will affect most existing hospital, medical, and infectious waste incinerators (HMIWI).

This final action will reduce about 390,000 pounds of several pollutants each year including acid gases, nitrogen oxides, and metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury.

The agency also is finalizing additional testing, monitoring, and inspection requirements. This final action revises the September 1997 New Source Performance Renew (NSPR) standards and emission guidelines for these incinerators and responds to the court remand of the regulations. It also satisfies the Clean Air Act requirement to conduct a review of the standards every five years.

EPA recalculated the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) floors for existing and new HMIWI and developed new emission limits. The MACT floor level of control is the minimum level of stringency that can be considered in establishing standards under Section 129 of the Clean Air Act.

The final emission limits will require improvements in performance for 50 of the 57 currently operating HMIWI. EPA estimates that the total nationwide cost for the 57 currently operating HMIWI to comply with the final rule revisions will be approximately $15.5 million per year. The agency also estimates that the cost of an available disposal alternative would be about $10.6 million, or roughly two-thirds of the estimated compliance costs.

The final amendments to the HMIWI regulations include:

  • Strengthened existing emission limits for all regulated pollutants,
  • Additional stack testing requirements for existing and new sources,
  • Additional monitoring requirements for new sources,
  • Annual inspections of emission control devices,
  • One-time visible emissions test of ash handling operations,
  • Procedures for test data submittal, and
  • Revised waste management plan provisions.
There were approximately 2,400 HMIWI operating in the United States at the time EPA adopted the 1997 NSPS and emission guidelines. The NSPS and emission guidelines require new and existing HMIWI to control emissions of hydrogen chloride, carbon monoxide, lead, cadmium, mercury, particulate matter, dioxins/furans, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide to levels that reflect the degree of emission reduction based on MACT.

To download the final notice, go to http://www.epa.gov/ttn/oarpg/t1pfpr.html.

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