The U.S. Environmental Protective Agency has thrown for a loop those finishers with “burn-off ovens” after passing new rules that could cost the owners of those devices $150,000 or more in modifications to meet the new requirements.
In June, the EPA included burn-off ovens as part of its definition of incinerators in rewriting its “Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerators” regulations [75 Fed. Reg. 31938 (2010)]. The rules were part of a federal court order to tighten air emissions.
The new regulations will require existing ovens to meet “existing source” requirements, meaning finishers may need to install additional scrubbers, comply with stack testing rules, and require additional annual monitoring and reporting.
“This snuck up on us and surprised us,” says Scott Heran, owner of Ace Equipment Company (Cleveland, OH), which sells the ovens. “The first I even heard about it was when a customer called me asking how to get equipment for the modifications. This is bad news for a lot of people. It will have a huge impact.”
Kelly McCabe, facilities manager for Associated Finishing (Mankato, MN) said the EPA is misinformed.
“Burn-off ovens are among the most economic and environmentally friendly ways to re-claim the metal for continued use,” McCabe says. “Alternative coating removal processes will greatly increase the amount of hazardous waste that is created. The burn-off oven emissions are minimal and greatly reduce the amount of VOC’s emitted which is not noted on the list of pollutants.”
The EPA closed its 45-day “input” period when it asks for commentary from the public in late August, and held three public hearings on the new law. Besides the finishing industry, the ovens are also used to burn off insulation from wires on motors, grease from engine blocks, and are used by reclamation and repair facilities.
The EPA’s Toni Jones, who is leading the solid waste incinerator project for the agencies Natural Resources and Commerce Group, said that her office was swamped with more than 3,000 emails and letter when the burn-off oven issue came to light, and she is still getting calls and emails about the rule, which will become law for new ovens on December 16, while existing users must phase in controls over the next three years.
“Obviously the word is getting out more about what is happening,” Jones says. “Even though we are not legally obligated to accept and respond to these comments after the period is closed, we have decided to continue looking at what these businesses are telling us.”
One matter of contention is that the EPA took only 10 samples from burn-off ovens to make their case for including them in the incinerator category. In addition, the EPA documents indicate that only 36 such burn off ovens exist in the U.S.
Carlton Mann of oven maker Steelman wrote to the EPA that as many 10,000 of the ovens have been sold in the past 25 years.
“In reality, there are probably 4,000 to 5,000 ovens in powder coating, plastics processing and electric motor repair shops around the country,” Mann wrote to the EPA, saying he assumed about one-third were still operational, and that he knows that his company has about 500 devices currently in operation.
Jones said the estimate of 36 burn-off ovens was based on what documentation the EPA had after surveying national trade groups, state agencies and trade media publications in late 2009, although she said she didn’t know the names of the groups or magazines that were asked.
“That is one of the reasons we are continuing to encourage the owners of these ovens to contact us even after the comment period,” Jones says. “Obviously, we want to get this right.”
Jeff Hannapel, the lobbyist for the National Association of Surface Finishers, wrote to the EPA in late August asking that the new rules be stricken.
“The EPA has inaccurately developed standards for CISWI units based on a flawed database, flawed analysis, and incorrect application of testing and sampling methodologies,” Hannapel said. “In addition, EPA’s cost analysis substantially underestimates the impact that these rules will have on the variety of units that have the potential of being regulated as CISWI units under the proposed rule.”
The next step will be that each state will need to issue guidelines on the U.S. EPA rules, and they have up to three years to implement the changes for existing ovens.
Meanwhile, manufacturers and sellers of the ovens will continue to monitor the regulations, and finishers will study what they need to do to bring their ovens into compliance.
“It’s obvious the EPA wants to shut down every burn-oven they can,” Heran says. “This is just plain wrong.”