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WASTE INCINERATION & PUBLIC HEALTH
cy (EPA), whose authority arises under the Clean Air Act (CAA) (42 USC §7412), the Clean Water Act (CWA) (42 USC § 1365), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (42 USC §§ 6901-6992k), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) (15 USC §2601), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), referred to as Superfund (42 USC §9601). To some extent, regulation of facilities that incinerate municipal solid waste, medical waste, or hazardous waste has been effectively delegated to the states, with EPA performing an oversight role. Federal law sets minimal standards for the combustors that the states must implement and enforce, although they are free to impose more-stringent requirements if allowed to do so by state law (Organ 1995). EPA has exclusive jurisdiction, however, over incineration operations that handle polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and hazardous wastes from Superfund cleanup sites.
Incineration regulations generally address emission limitations, good combustion practices, operator training and certification, facility-siting criteria, permit compliance and inspections, and record keeping and reporting requirements. There are wide variations across the country with regard to these subjects. Typically, incineration regulations vary with the type of waste being incinerated, the capacity of the facility, its age, and the overall regulatory environment. The remainder of this overview focuses on relevant requirements of the CAA and RCRA.
The Clean Air Act and Waste Incineration
The CAA requires EPA to establish new source performance standards (NSPS) for new incineration facilities and emission guidelines for existing facilities. Emission guidelines require states to develop plans for controlling emissions from facilities within their jurisdictions. Once EPA has approved the states' plans, they become federally enforceable. Standards and regulations are developed by EPA's Office of Air and Radiation for incinerators that burn municipal solid waste or medical waste. Regulations for hazardous-waste incinerators and cement kilns are developed by EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response under the CAA and RCRA (as will be discussed below).
Regulations developed under the CAA are intended to limit atmospheric concentrations of the six criteria pollutants (i.e., carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide) and control emissions of 188 air toxics (also known as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)).1
Prior to 1990, EPA's efforts to regulate HAPs on the basis of health risk were slowed by conflicts and litigation by interested or affected parties. As a
The original list of HAPs included 189 chemicals, but caprolactam was removed from the list in 1996.