Contact Us


1994 News Releases



Release Date: 09/06/94
Contact Information:



EPA today proposed air standards for municipal waste incinerators nationwide that will slash dioxin emissions by 99 percent as
well as sharply reduce other air pollutants like mercury, lead and cadmium. "This proposal will result in a major reduction in
dioxin emissions and other air pollutants from municipal incinerators," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "It
represents the strongest action ever taken to control emissions from municipal incinerators. It signifies the Clinton
Administration's aggressive efforts to protect the health of the American people."

Today's action proposes toughening earlier municipal waste incinerator standards set in 1991 under the previous
Administration, requiring more stringent pollution control equipment, increasing the number of pollutants regulated, and
increasing the number of incinerators to be regulated from those that burn 250 tons or more of trash a day to those that burn as
little as 40 tons per day. This translates into 180 existing incincerators and all new plants.

The proposed rule includes stringent numerical emission limits for a whole host of toxic and respiratory air pollutants such as
dioxin, lead, cadmium, mercury, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide (the chief global warming gas).
Emissions from these and other air pollutants from incinerators would be reduced by 145,000 tons a year.

Also, for new plants the proposal requires: (1) a materials separation/recycling plan; (2) an incinerator plant siting analysis; and
(3) requirements for public involvement and meetings early in the incinerator planning stage.

The proposal will make it easier for communities to implement recycling programs at incinerators. A separate proposed rule will
be issued shortly addressing the combustion of lead acid batteries. EPA is still considering the environmentally best method for
managing such batteries.

The proposal requires emission limits reflecting the use of maximum achievable control technology, which is currently a device
called a scrubber. Scrubbers, or their equivalent technology, must be installed at new plants to reduce metal emissions, such as
lead, cadmium, arsenic and chromium by more than 99 percent; dioxins, furans and other organic chemical emissions by more
than 99 percent; acid gas emissions, such as sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride by 90 - 95 percent; mercury by 85 percent;
and nitrogen oxide gases by about 45 percent. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are the prime ingredients in the formation of
acid rain.

The proposal also requires facilities to install (retrofit) scrubbers or

their equivalents at existing plants, reducing metal emissions by 98 to 99 percent, organic emissions by 95 to 99 percent and
acid gases by 45 percent.

Municipal waste incinerators are estimated to be the second largest source of air dioxin emissions. Municipal incinerators
generally burn only residential and commercial trash or garbage; they do not handle hazardous or industrial waste. Also, this
proposal does not apply to medical waste incinerators; later this year EPA will propose a rule controlling dioxin from medical
waste incinerators. Individually, emissions from most medical waste incinerators are thought to be relatively small; however,
because there are over 5000 medical waste incinerators in the U.S., as a group these type incinerators are estimated to be the
largest overall contributor of dioxin to the air.

Nearly 196 million tons of municipal waste were produced in 1990, or about 4.3 pounds per person per day (almost a ton of
waste per person per year). Currently, 16 percent of all municipal waste is incinerated, 17 percent is separated/recycled and
67 percent is landfilled.

This proposal, when it becomes final, will cost existing incinerators nationwide about $450 million a year, or an average cost
increase of about $12 per ton of waste combusted. This translates into an additional residential customer cost of about $2.00
per month per household. For new plants, the proposal would cost about $43 million annually beginning five years after it
becomes effective, and would also cost about $2.00 per month per household.

When today's proposal becomes a final rule in Sept. 1995, existing plants will have one to three years to comply with the rule,
while new plants must comply immediately on startup of operations.

The proposed regulation, specifically required by Congress in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, sets up federal
standards for new waste incinerators and guidelines for states in setting their own standards for existing plants. The state
standards, however, must be based on the federal guidelines and are subject to EPA review.

Today's announced proposal will appear soon in the Federal Register, but will be computer-accessible earlier through EPA's
Electronic Bulletin Board (TTN) at 919-541-5742 (backup number for access problems is 919-541-5384).

For further technical information on the proposal, contact Walt Stevenson at 919-541-5264.

R-211# # #