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Hospitals and medical facilities may be impacted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency's ("EPA") recent proposed rule that provides more stringent emission limits for hazardous, medical and infectious waste incinerators. The rule, "Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources and Emission Guidelines for Existing Sources: Hospital/Medical/Infectious Waste Incinerators," provides more stringent emission limits in the New Source Performance Standards ("NSPS") and in the emission guidelines applicable to Hazardous/Medical/Infectious Waste Incinerators ("HMIWI"). 

HMIWI are defined as any device used to burn hospital waste or medical/infectious waste. Hospital waste is defined as discards generated by a hospital. Medical/infectious waste is defined as any waste generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in the production or testing of biologicals (e.g., vaccines, cultures, blood or blood products, human pathological wastes, sharps). Hospital/medical/infectious waste does not include household waste, hazardous waste, or human and animal remains not generated as medical waste.

Various air pollutants may be generated by the incineration of hospital, medical or infectious waste. Some of the air pollutants may exist in the waste feed materials and may be released unchanged by the incineration, and some of the air pollutants may be generated as a result of the combustion process. Examples of the air pollutants which may be emitted include particulate matter; heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, and mercury; toxic organics, including chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans; carbon monoxide; nitrogen oxides; and acid gases, including hydrogen chloride and sulfur dioxide.

The proposed rule addresses issues previously raised in litigation filed by the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel regarding the EPA's methodology in setting the original emission standards and implements a settlement agreement regarding that litigation. It also proposed revisions to the HMIWI standards as part of the EPA's required five-year review of such standards. 

For existing units, the EPA's proposed rule would revise the emission limits for hydrogen chloride, lead, cadmium, and chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans. The EPA has estimated that the more stringent emission limits for existing sources will be achievable with the same technology being used by currently-operating HMIWI. The EPA also expects that approximately one-third of the currently-operating HMIWI will find it necessary to make modest improvements in performance in order to meet the proposed emission limits. The anticipated improvements include: adding lime or increasing its use to address sulfur dioxide and hydrogen chloride; increasing natural gas use to address carbon monoxide and chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans; and increasing scrubber horsepower to address lead, cadmium and mercury). The EPA projects that the more stringent limitations will result in a 24,700-pound reduction in the amount of regulated pollutants emitted annually. Reductions in the emission of acid gases are expected to comprise approximately 86% of the amount reduced, and reductions in the emission of particulate matter will comprise an additional 11% of the amount reduced. The EPA estimates that the nationwide costs and facility-specific costs will not cause any significant economic impacts for existing units.

For new units, the EPA's proposed rule would revise NSPS emission limits for carbon monoxide, lead, cadmium, mercury, particulate matter and chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/dibenzofurans. Additionally, the EPA has proposed additional monitoring requirements, including the use of continuous emission monitoring for carbon monoxide and the use of bag leak detection systems for fabric filters, as well as annual inspections of scrubbers and fabric filters. However, because no new HMIWI units have become subject to the NSPS since 2002, the EPA does not anticipate the construction and operation of any new HMIWI units and, therefore, does not project any economic impacts associated with the revised NSPS standards.

For additional information on this subject, please contact Robert Burns at 412-562-1312 or