Comments on Universal Purifying Technology draft tire-melting permit

Application #01-08684
November 20, 2003

Southwest Neighbors Protecting Our Environment
Buckeye Environmental Network
Ohio Citizen Action

1. Dioxin testing

This facility contains all chemical precursors to dioxin and operates in the temperature range where dioxin formation is facilitated. Further, the application fails to supply information of meaningful detail on the engineering controls proposed for the facility to prevent dioxin formation and does not appear to have been designed with dioxin issues receiving any specific consideration. Accordingly, and in light of the fact that the former facility was the largest dioxin source ever recorded on this planet, dioxin testing is necessary at this facility as an emergency stop-gap measure to protect public health and safety.

Testing should be conducted both in the final outlet stack and within the pyrolysis chamber. It should be conducted on a monthly basis for the first six months and on a bimonthly basis thereafter if the initial round of tests prove negative. A special term and condition should be added to any final permit requiring this information to be reported immediately to the permitting body and requiring the facility to cease operations in the event that a positive dioxin reading is made.

2. Dioxin testing as part of the trial burn

The applicant represents that this facility will not form dioxin and dioxin-like compounds despite the technical literature that consistently records the history of these facilities producing these extremely toxic chemicals. The trial burn should require dioxin testing both in the final outlet stack and within the pyrolysis chamber. A special term and condition should be added to any final permit that, in the event that the test is positive, the facility will be prohibited from operation.

3. Vacuum and oxygen instrumentation for the pyrolysis chamber

The application provides no mechanism to confirm that one of the prime rationales given by the permitting agency that the facility will not produce dioxin, i.e., that the pyrolysis chamber will operate as a vacuum without any free oxygen, has any basis in fact. It would be simple to require that the pyrolysis chamber be fitted with instrumentation to confirm that it is operating in a vacuum . This should be required and a special term and condition added to any final permit requiring that the vacuum reading be continuously monitored and reported to the permitting body on a monthly basis for the first six months of operation and bimonthly thereafter. Further, instrumentation should be required to determine that the claim that the chamber will have no free oxygen can be verified and also reported on the same basis. A special term and condition should be added to any final permit requiring that if the vaccum conditions and oxygen-free conditions represented by the applicant prove false, the facility will cease operation.

4. Vacuum and oxygen instrumentation for the pyrolysis chamber as part of the trial burn

The applicant and permitting agency represents that the obvious dioxin producing potential of this facility will not manifest because in principal part, the tires will be melted in a vacuum without free oxygen. However, the application provides no detail on how these conditions will be maintained in real world conditions. The trial burn should therefore specify by special term and condition that these representations be demonstrated before the facility be allowed to operate. A special term and condition should be added to any final permit requiring that if the vacuum conditions and oxygen-free conditions within the pyrolysis chamber represented by the applicant prove false, the facility will not operate.

5. Denial of federally enforceable limitation to potential to emit

The permitting agency seems willing to grant this facility an exemption from the Best Available Control Technology requirements and of the Title V program through the postulation of an elaborate set of operational controls. Only a minority of these conditions will require documentation of compliance by the applicant. The granting of a limitation to potential to emit is discretionary with the permitting authority, see Ohio Adm. Code 3745-35-07(B). In this case, no such limit should be granted because the operational limits are not realistically enforceable by the permitting body. As a result, the facility should be required to undergo a top-down BACT analysis and be subject to the Title V permitting program.

6. Consideration of catalytic add-on control in lieu of thermal oxidation

While the proposed thermal oxidation is an effective means of control for the organic compounds (OC) that will be emitted from this source, it will create temperature conditions that render dioxin formation likely. Evidently, oxygen will be freely available in the vicinity of the thermal oxidation as well so conditions exist for dioxin formation at that point. The applicant should be required to review the potential for use of other add-on controls, including catalytic controls, in lieu of the thermal oxidation as a means to reduce or prevent dioxin formation. In the event that the permitting body denies the exemption from the top-down BACT analysis as previously commented, this step would become part of that analysis.

7. Failure to specify wet scrubber detail and temperature range

The permitting body has asserted that dioxin formation in the vicinity of the thermal oxidizer will be prevented because the wet scrubber will drop the temperature of the exhaust below the temperature range conducive to dioxin formation quickly enough to prevent to prevent such formation. However, there is no basis for this claim as the application fails to specify the size and engineering properties of the proposed wet scrubber unit and thus, this asserted protection is utterly unfounded in real world terms. Accordingly, the application must be deemed incomplete and must be amended to specify the exact parameters of the wet scrubber so that a rational basis for the claim by the permitting body that dioxin formation will be prevented by use of the wet scrubber can be provided.

8. Failure to prevent oxygen infiltration within facility duct work

The permitting body has asserted that the lack of oxygen within the system will be a limiting factor on dioxin formation generally in this facility. However, the exhaust stream will pass through extensive duct work at temperatures potentially conducive to dioxin formation and in the event that oxygen is also present in this duct work, dioxin is likely to form therein. Duct work is notoriously prone to leaks that will allow oxygen into the hot exhaust stream. However, the application gives no detail on this ductwork or any effort that the applicant will make to render or maintain it in an air tight condition. The application should therefore be deemed incomplete and the applicant required to submit information establishing how the duct work will be maintained in a manner to defeat dioxin formation.

9. Failure to consider PCB formation

The permitting body appears to have given some late consideration to the potential of this facility to produce dioxins and furans, see Lindstrom letter of Oct. 15, 2003. This letter focused on the absence of oxygen within the pyrolysis chamber, as well as temperature issues, as the main reasons for the permitting body's assumption that the facility would not produce dioxins and furans. However, the potential for toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) is also present in this facility, the formation of which is not dependent upon the insertion of one or more oxygen atoms between the carbon phenyl's. Thus, the PCB formation problem inherent in this incinerator design does not appear to have been considered by the permitting body at the same time that its formation would evade the primary defense inserted by the permitting body. The potential for PCB formation within the system should be fully assessed by the permitting body before any action taken on the draft permit in order to safeguard public health and safety.

10. Erroneous determination dioxin formation temperature

Ohio EPA has produced a letter of some four pages dated October 15, 2003, which lays out its argument for why "little or no" dioxin will be formed in this facility. The letter relies heavily on the claim that the temperature of the pyrolysis unit will be operated at 450 degrees F which is less than the temperature range at which Ohio EPA claims dioxins form, which it claims to begin only at temperatures above 500 degrees F. This claim is erroneous and renders the Agency's entire dioxin analysis for this facility unreliable.

According to Chapter 2 of the most recent version of U.S. EPA's Dioxin Reassessment document (September 2000, page 2-2), which is the most authoritative reference regarding this toxic compound: "Temperatures between 200 and 450o Celsius are most conducive to forming CDD/CDFs with maximum formation occurring at around 350o Celsius." After converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, the key temperature range for dioxin formation is therefore from 390 to 840oF with maximum formation occurring around 660oF. Since the exit temperature of the flue gases of the pyrolysis unit is in the 450 degrees or higher, the operating conditions of this unit are ripe for dioxin formation.

We cannot account for Ohio EPA's erroneous conclusion on such a significant issue but it is self-evident that this error establishes that the Agency does not understand dioxin formation within this facility. The October 15 letter concurs with our position that all the chemical precursors necessary for dioxin formation exist within this facility while the application does not describe, nor does the Ohio EPA know, of the quality of the engineering controls to be applied to this unit to prevent the introduction of oxygen into the pyrolysis chamber or into the down stream duct work where dioxin is most likely to form whenever oxygen is present.

11. Failure to consider temperature variation within pyrolysis chamber

The application asserts on page 1-5 that the temperature within the pyrolysis chamber will be in a range from 400 to 500 degrees F which is within the lower ranges of temperatures for forming dioxin according to U.S. EPA (minimum temperature range being 390 degrees F), but less than the 660 degree F temperature most conducive to dioxin formation. Despite the fact that the temperature of the pyrolysis unit supports dioxin formation, Ohio EPA has cited this purportedly low temperature as a primary reason supporting its conclusion that dioxin will be low or not occur in this unit. However, the application contains no detail on the height of the pyrolysis chamber or on the higher temperature can would be expected to exist within that higher area. Accordingly this area where exhaust gasses will collect will most probably be closer to the temperature range conducive to dioxin formation but Ohio EPA does not know the extent of the resulting public health danger nor has it investigated this matter.

The application should be considered incomplete due to this lack of critical detail regarding dioxin formation. Further, the temperature for the chamber should be measured at the top of the chamber and a special term and condition added to any final permit that that temperature be continuously monitored in that location and that it not exceed the temperature where dioxin forms. Adding a suitable safety factor, the maximum temperature at the top of the chamber should be no higher than 360 degrees F.

12. Failure to determine critical engineering features of pyrolysis chamber in relation to dioxin formation

The Lindstrom letter of Oct. 15, 2003 asserts that dioxin formation will be prevented within the pyrolysis chamber due to the vacuum conditions maintained there. However, critical engineering detail regarding the multiple ingress and egress points to that chamber are missing in the application and apparently unknown to the staff of the permitting body. Accordingly, there is no reasonable basis in engineering science for the assumption that a vacuum will be maintained in the pyrolysis chamber. The application is incomplete for this reason and must be amended with this critical engineering detail to establish that there is a basis for any reasonable person to believe the representations made by the applicant relative to dioxin formation.

13. Need for dioxin testing as exhaust of carbon activation furnace

The carbon activation will burn at temperatures conducive to dioxin formation in the presence of oxygen and thus is a likely source of dioxin within this facility. No dioxin management is proposed for the carbon activation furnace. The permit should contain a special term and condition requiring dioxin monitoring in the cooling chamber exhaust of this furnace on a monthly basis for the first six months operation of the facility and on a bimonthly basis thereafter. A special term and condition should also require facility shut-down in the event of a positive dioxin detection.

14. Failure to identify constituents and properties of 'catalyst'

A key component of the proposed operation is the use of an unspecified "catalyst" to improve the functioning of the pyrolysis chamber. There is no information given in the application to identify the constituents of this catalyst and no description of how it will chemically affect the proposed pyrolysis process. Ohio EPA apparently recognized the need for this critical information as it requested this information from the applicant by certified mail letter dated October 10, 2003, but either the company has refused to supply this information or it is not being released as part of the public record on this application. The result is that critical information regarding the process and its toxic by-products is not in the public record with the result that the true environmental impact of this facility is not revealed and the public participation process has been seriously negated. It remains possible that the chemical constituents of the catalyst or its effect on the pyroloysis process will create a higher potential for the formation of toxic byproducts, including dioxins, from this operation. If the permitting body has shielded this information from public disclosure and concealed an enhanced health risk, it has improperly granted trade secret status to this information. Failure to supply this information renders the application incomplete and therefore, not approvable.

15. Need for independent dioxin testing

Due to the fact that even extremely low levels of dioxin cause a serious public health concern, dioxin testing is a very challenging technical operation to be done correctly. In particular, the conditions under which such a test are to be performed must very closely match the normal operating conditions of the facility. The applicant has never before operated a pyrolysis unit and has no evident expertise in effectively managing dioxin testing at this facility. To insure that any dioxin testing produces a reliable result, Ohio EPA should add a specific term and condition to the permit requiring the entity conducting any dioxin testing be fully qualified to conduct such demanding testing, that the test be conducted under normal operating conditions, and that the raw data derived from the sampling be supplied on the test into the public record and reviewed by a qualified expert independent of the applicant. Ohio EPA should also confirm that testing has been properly conducted by having qualified staff or contractors participate in the planning for the testing and personally observing it being conducted. It would be very easy for Ohio EPA to claim that it is doing its duty to the affected public by requiring testing but very hard for it to insure that the testing performed is a real and substantial safeguard to the public health. Ohio EPA must insure that the testing done is completely reliable.

16. Dioxin's existing background levels trigger health effects and this permit should be denied pursuant to Ohio Administrative Code 3745-31-05(C)

The application is clear that benzene is present within the system (in addition to other sources of carbon ring phenyls within the tires themselves) and that the temperature range is conducive to dioxin formation while Ohio EPA has acknowledged that chlorine is also present within the additives to the tire. Even if the agency assumes vacuum conditions in the pyrolysis chamber itself (and this would be an assumption because of the lack of engineering detail in the application), oxygen is still available to the hot exhaust gasses through the duct work, from within air trapped within the interstices of the tire chips themselves, and from the chemical components of the tires. Even without oxygen, PCB's are likely to be formed in this system. In these circumstances, dioxin formation is likely to occur in the same general area that has previously had the highest recorded dioxin readings ever from the previous trash burning operation.

Accordingly, there is a clear likelihood of additional dioxin poisoning in an already dioxin poisoned environment. Unfortunately, Ohio EPA has no regulatory requirements specific to the permitting of toxic pollution sources. It has only its "Air Toxics Policy" which is unenforceable as it has not been adopted pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Chapter 119. While the applicant submitted a brief review of that policy after its application was filed, that review is non-substantive and conclusory and does not address the real danger of dioxin poisoning posed by this plant.

In these circumstances, OEPA Director Jones should utilize the provisions of Ohio Adm. Code 3745-31-05(C) and deny this permit because its social, economic and "other adverse environmental impact" warrant denial due to the potential for dioxin poisoning. Ohio EPA should not ignore the dioxin danger especially because of the past history of the trash plant and this authority provides a basis for responding to that danger in responsible fashion, despite the lack of regulations adopted by Ohio EPA to protect the public health and safety from toxic chemicals during the permitting process.

17. Need to test sample all outputs from the plant besides exhaust gasses

Previous comments have addressed the obvious need to test this facility for dioxin in its exhaust gasses and at each major component of the facility where dioxin is likely to be formed and that such testing should be done both within the initial trial burn of the facility as well as during its routine operation thereafter. In addition to this testing, it should be noted that there is a similar potential for dioxins to be formed within the other output components of the facility, especially the pyrolysis oils. These oils should also be tested for dioxin content especially as they may be burned later and release their dioxin at other inadequately regulated sources. Further, the carbon black should also be tested for dioxin before it is distributed off-site and all potential for its regulation lost.

18. Need to sample for chlorine as well as dioxin during trial burn and routine operation

No where in the application is there any reference to the chlorine content of the outputs of this facility. Fortunately, Ohio EPA has acknowledged the information obtained from numerous components of the literature that chlorine will be present within the facility from chemicals contained within the tires. Inasmuch as the temperature range of this facility is conducive to dioxin formation, inasmuch as benzene is acknowledged to be present, inasmuch as carbon-ring phenyls are a component of the tires, and inasmuch as oxygen will be present within air trapped within the interstices of the tire chips themselves and from the chemical components of the tires, as well as from any leakage within the system (especially in the ductwork downstream from the pyrolysis chamber), dioxins will be formed in this system if chlorine is present. Due to the extreme difficulty in accurately testing for dioxins noted in previous comments, an extra safeguard should be provided to also test for chlorine content in the exhaust gas in both the trial burn and during routine basis on the same basis as recommended for dioxin testing recommended in previous comments. If chlorine is detected within the exhaust gasses, it must be assumed that dioxins are being formed and the facility not be allowed to operate pursuant to special term and condition to be added to any final permit that the OEPA may issue.