Date Approaches for Effluent Guidelines

June 1, 2000
SOMETIME in June 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to publish the final rule for the tank cleaning effluent guidelines. Barring

SOMETIME in June 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to publish the final rule for the tank cleaning effluent guidelines. Barring substantial changes in the rule as it was proposed two years ago, a court challenge is highly likely.

The proposed regulation is full of inaccuracies and bad logic, and places a disproportionate burden on the tank truck industry. "EPA's own findings do not support this rule," said Jack E Waggener, Dames & Moore. "The environment will be fine even without the rule. If there is a rule, we need reasonable limits."

Waggener and his firm were hired by National Tank Truck Carriers to advise the association on the impact of the proposed rule and to help develop a strategy to address the serious errors that were uncovered.

NTTC has spent around $400,000 in consulting and legal fees on this issue. Waggener spoke at the NTTC Tank Cleaning Council Seminar April 17 and 18 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The proposal would reduce the discharge of priority pollutants by at least 100,000 pounds a year, according to EPA. However, that claim has been challenged by NTTC and the tank cleaning industry.

High Costs Other EPA findings also have been challenged, including the cost impact to the industry. Waggener estimated that it will cost wash rack operators around $200,000 per facility to comply with the proposed rule. Annual operating and maintenance costs will be in the range of $100,000 per facility.

"These costs are way too high," Waggener said. "The cost effectiveness is out of the realm of past effluent guidelines. That's a key issue, because this regulation must go through a review by the Small Business Administration and Office of Management and Budget."

One reason the cost will be so high is that the proposed rule is technology based. It calls for flow reduction, equalization, oil/water separation, chemical oxidation, neutralization, coagulation, clarification or dissolved air flotation, and sludge dewatering. Activated carbon will not be required in most cases.

Another reason for the high compliance cost is that the EPA based its proposed rule on erroneous data. Among other things, the EPA laboratory in Chicago, Illinois, was accused of tampering with the numbers.

"There is a suggestion that shortcuts were taken," Waggener said. "We have have discussed the erroneous information with EPA, and we have been plowing new ground with the SBA and OMB by turning over the data to them.

"The EPA data has big problems. Most importantly, the EPA lab reported finding in the wastewater flows pesticides that have been banned in the United States for many years. It's also questionable that they found some of the other materials that were reported in the test results."

EPA Backpedaling EPA has been backpedaling ever since, and Waggener said he senses some panic at the agency. EPA has partly agreed that the findings of pesticides were wrong, but they added some other substances, including dioxins and furans. "It's Times Beach all over again," Waggener said.

EPA has several options for a final rule. The best scenario would be no rule at all. Waggener said the data does not support the need for a rule, and EPA has already set a precedent that it could follow. The agency declined to issue effluent limitation guidelines for industrial laundries on the grounds that pollution levels were insignificant and did not warrant nationwide regulations.

"We believe the same is true for transportation equipment cleaning," he said. "We will continue to bring forward the viewpoint that EPA doesn't have to issue a regulation."

Other options would include a final rule with effluent limitations guidelines for just pesticides and herbicides. Other wastewaters would remain covered by publicly owned treatment works ordinances and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

If EPA moves ahead with effluent limitation guidelines for the tank cleaning industry, NTTC will do everything it can to ensure that parameters and limits are realistic and that activated carbon is kept out of the treatment options. NTTC also will call for inclusion of intermediate bulk containers in the regulation.

"We've suggested compromise, and we hope EPA will work with us," Waggener said. "We don't think we will get everything we want, but we hope EPA acts reasonably. We may have to call for Congressional pressure to get EPA to moderate its stance. We may have to go to court. Hopefully, it won't come to that."