EPA Denies Petitions to Reconsider Rule On Sewage Sludge Incinerator Emissions

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EPA Sewage Sludge Incinerator Rule  


Key Development: EPA denies separate petitions by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the Sierra Club to reconsider the March 2011 sewage sludge incinerator rule.

Potential Impact: Wastewater utilities say they might have to shut down their sewage sludge incinerators because it will be too costly to comply.

What's Next: NACWA plans to pursue a lawsuit against EPA for denying its petition. This lawsuit would be separate from the one it already is pursuing over the rule in the D.C. Circuit.

By Amena H. Saiyid  

The Environmental Protection Agency has denied two separate petitions seeking reconsideration of a Clean Air Act rule that would impose emissions limits on sewage sludge incinerators, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies said April 16.

NACWA General Counsel Nathan Gardner-Andrews confirmed that EPA had issued its formal denials.

A petition filed by the Sierra Club challenging the rule also was denied.

At issue in both petitions was the EPA final sewage sludge incinerator rule, which was published in March 2011 and took effect May 20, 2011. It includes new source performance standards for new units and emissions guidelines for existing sources (76 Fed. Reg. 15,372; 54 DER A-2, 3/21/11).

In the sewage sludge incinerator rule, EPA set limits on emissions of nine pollutants from wastewater utilities under Section 129 of the Clean Air Act. The pollutants are cadmium, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, lead, mercury, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans, and sulfur dioxide.

EPA Says Group Misunderstands Rationale.

EPA denied NACWA's petition on April 6 on the grounds that the wastewater treatment group misunderstood EPA's rationale for regulating municipal solid waste incinerators under Section 129, which governs solid waste, rather than the less stringent standards under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, which governs emissions of toxic air pollutants.

“EPA told us a number of months ago that they were planning to deny our request, although now have finally put it in writing,” Gardner-Andrews told BNA (29 DER A-15, 2/14/12).

Gardner-Andrews said NACWA will pursue a lawsuit the group filed last year in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit challenging the rule's legality.

“We anticipate filing briefs in that legal challenge sometime later this year,” he said.

Legal Challenge Filed in 2011.

NACWA filed its legal challenge to the rule on May 6, 2011, in the D.C. Circuit (National Ass'n of Clean Water Agencies v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 11-1131, 5/6/11).

The group also alleges that EPA failed in its rule to recognize that there are different classes of incinerators, and failed to account for variability in the concentration of metals in sewage sludge.

NACWA members own and operate approximately 110, or roughly half, of the sewage sludge incinerators affected by the rule. Wastewater utilities use the incinerators to manage sludge, which is the residual, semisolid material left from industrial wastewater or sewage treatment processes.

By Amena H. Saiyid  

EPA's denial of petitions is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=phey-8tess2.