tion process, or inadequate maintenance or housekeeping. Off-normal operations (e.g., upsets and accidents) at various points in the incineration process might result in explosions; fires; the release of smoke, ash, or noxious odors into the atmosphere; and the spilling or leakage of contaminated or toxic substances. As discussed in Chapter 5, workers at incineration facilities are more at risk than nearby residents due to such occurrences.

Mishaps that are actually experienced by operating facilities that incinerate municipal wastes, hazardous wastes, or medical wastes form a concrete basis for the concerns of nearby residents and other concerned citizens about the safety of waste incineration and the efficacy of regulatory oversight. The fears and worries of residents and concerned citizens are not limited to worst-case scenarios, but extend to events that occur in the normal course of operations at what are otherwise considered properly run and maintained facilities (Curlee 1994). For example, the stream of waste flowing to a hazardous-waste incinerator might be automatically shut off for the purpose of minimizing emissions when operating conditions are outside permitted limits. Automatic waste-feed cutoffs might indicate that an incinerator is not being operated according to good combustion practices. The cutoffs might also affect emissions by leading to a quick shutdown and incomplete combustion. However, if properly managed, the emissions should be minimized. More serious is the use of an emergency bypass or vent stack. Such a stack allows an operator to bypass the air-pollution control equipment following a waste-feed cutoff to prevent the buildup of excessive pressure in an incinerator or to protect the emission control equipment from exceedingly hot flue gases. The frequency of occurrence of such emergency bypass venting by incineration facilities is unknown.

As a result of the possible dangers associated with waste incineration, potentially affected persons expect comprehensive, effective, and responsive regulation that prevents or deters uncontrolled emissions, upsets, and worker injuries, that punishes regulatory infractions, and that promotes decontamination, rectification, and compensation for any harm done.

This chapter examines the structure of waste-incineration regulations with regard to public and occupational health; regulatory oversight; and the policy concerns that are likely to affect future regulatory changes. Particular attention is paid to the different bases on which regulatory standards are formulated and to the extent to which regulations vary with the age and size of a facility. The chapter includes discussions of citizens' concerns regarding the reliability of incineration technology and operations and the effectiveness of regulation.


Direct federal regulation of facilities and federal oversight of state regulation are primarily the responsibility of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agen-

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