Tank Cleaning Seminar Environmental Issues Challenge Cleaners

June 1, 1999
WASTEWATER handling may turn out to be the key regulatory issue facing wash rack operators as the 21st century dawns. However, it isn't the only concern

WASTEWATER handling may turn out to be the key regulatory issue facing wash rack operators as the 21st century dawns. However, it isn't the only concern that is confronting the industry.

Updates on wastewater handling and other critical environmental and workplace issues were provided by a number of speakers during the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) Tank Cleaning Council Seminar April 12 and 13 in St Petersburg, Florida.

Effluent treatment standards are still coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but they may not be as onerous or as one sided as was first indicated. Jack Waggener, Dames & Moore Resource Consultants, provided a status report.

"We're hearing some good news suggesting that the agency is moving somewhat in our direction," said Waggener, whose firm is under contract to advise NTTC on the pending regulation. "The final rule is due in June 2000, and the EPA probably will allow three years for compliance. State and local agencies may set shorter deadlines, though."

Effluent Study The EPA took the first step toward developing the Transportation Equipment Cleaning Effluent Limitations Guidelines when it initiated a study in 1990. EPA officials and contractors conducted site visits at a number of tank wash racks around the country, and a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was published in June 1998.

Several components of the NPRM distressed members of the tank truck cleaning industry. Most importantly, the rules proposed for the tank truck industry were much stricter than those for other transportation equipment cleaning sectors. EPA also was criticized for technology overkill, bad research, and underestimating the cost of compliance.

"Rules proposed for the companies that clean rail tankcars were much less stringent," Waggener said. "All that would have been required for tankcar cleaners was flow reduction and oil/water separation. Truck wash racks also would need those capabilities, along with equalization, chemical oxidation, neutralization, coagulation, clarification, activated carbon, and sludge dewatering."

Even worse, EPA totally exempted intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). The IBC exclusion apparently was based on old data assembled prior to 1995, when IBC use began to grow dramatically.

It is now estimated that at least 500,000 IBCs are cleaned annually, many of them by drum reconditioners that are not regulated by the EPA.

Heel Quantity The EPA stated in the proposal that IBCs didn't need to be covered by the effluent treatment rules because heels are minimal. Quite the opposite is true. Some IBCs, especially those used to transport coatings and paints, have a lot of heel.

"The rules as originally proposed would have given an unfair competitive advantage to the IBC and rail tankcar industries," Waggener said. "Tank truck fleets and tank truck wash racks would have been at a competitive disadvantage. We need a level playing field for all parties.

"It now seems likely that the railroad industry will have to meet the same standards as the tank truck industry. The EPA is gathering fresh data on IBCs, and we believe they also will be covered. Petroleum cleaning will be incorporated into the chemical category."

Going beyond the unequitable aspects of the proposal, NTTC and its consultant found fault with the methodology. Many of the proposed wastewater treatment requirements were based on faulty assumptions that effluent flows contained certain substances, particularly pesticides that were banned years ago.

"We believe many mistakes were made in the sample testing process," Waggener said. "Samples were contaminated, and many detections were at the lowest limits. EPA didn't follow its own rules, which call for tests to be repeated five times before results are considered valid. Positive results were assigned to all samples even if detected only once."

Carbon Absorption NTTC questioned the need for the level of treatment technology that EPA was calling for. Activated carbon absorption was a specific concern. It now seems likely that EPA will drop that system from the rule. In addition, the agency probably will shift from mass limits to concentration limits for evaluating treated effluent concentrations.

These steps should help moderate the cost impact on the industry. However, the rules still will bring higher costs to companies that operate cleaning racks.

"EPA initially estimated a $58 million impact for the industry but, in reality, it would be closer to $150 million," Waggener said. "We have calculated that it will cost wash racks about $250,000 a year to comply with the rule. EPA made a number of mistakes in the initial estimate. For one, the agency assumed a 100% pass-through on the costs. We know that's not going to happen."

Stormwater Permits In another wastewater sector, Jeff Longsworth of Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott, discussed the latest developments in stormwater permits. Stormwater monitoring began in 1987, and the federal rules were implemented in 1990. Many tank truck carriers and wash racks are part of the multi-sector permits that are now in place.

Stormwater permit compliance includes development and implementation of a stormwater pollution prevention plan, training, inspection, and possibly analytical sampling requirements. This original stormwater compliance program constitutes Phase I of the Clean Water Act's stormwater requirements.

EPA has now proposed a Phase II program that is built around three central elements: an industrial "no exposure" exemption program, a municipal program expansion, and a construction program expansion. Publication of a final rule is expected in October 1999.

EPA has estimated that as many as 70,000 of the 120,000 industrial facilities covered by the Phase I program may qualify for the "no exposure" exemption. This could include a large number of tank cleaning facilities, according to Longsworth.

Under the proposal, "no exposure" would mean that "all industrial materials or activities are protected by storm-resistant shelters so that they are not exposed to rain, snow, snow melt, or runoff. Industrial materials or activities include material handling equipment, industrial machinery, raw materials, intermediate products, byproducts, or industrial waste products, however packaged."

Adequately maintained mobile equipment (including trucks, trailers, and other such general-purpose vehicles found at an industrial site that are not industrial machinery or material handling equipment and are not leaking contaminants) could be exposed to precipitation or runoff and would still qualify for the "no exposure" exemption. Similarly, trucks or other vehicles located at maintenance facilities awaiting repair or service would be allowed as long as they are not leaking contaminants or are not otherwise a source of industrial pollutants.

Facilities that qualify for the "no exposure" status will be able to file a five-year certification form stating that the facility meets the requirements of the exemption. Ordinarily, these facilities would file for an NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit. Each facility must agree to allow the permitting authority to inspect the facility, if necessary, and to abide by the "no exposure" commitment.

The Phase II proposal also would apply to most small municipal separate storm sewer systems within urbanized areas, small municipal storm sewer systems meeting certain criteria for designation, and any municipal separate storm sewer system contributing substantially to the stormwater pollutant loadings of a regulated, physically interconnected municipal separate storm sewer system.

The certain criteria will be established by permitting authorities. Small municipal separate storm sewer systems are those located in an incorporated area, county, or other place under the jurisdiction of a government entity in an urbanized area, as determined by the latest Decennial Census by the Census Bureau. Urbanized areas generally are densely settled with at least 1,000 people per square mile.

Existing construction stormwater regulations would be expanded under Phase II. EPA plans to reduce the qualifying acreage of construction sites to one acre from five. Permits for one- to five-acre parcels wouldn't be required until 2001.

EPA has proposed several waivers for construction permitting under the Phase II proposal. Among these would be waivers based on "low predicted rainfall," "low predicted soil loss," and a state's designation of receiving water impairment with wasteload allocations for construction-related pollutants.

Clean Air Developments Moving beyond water issues, Gary Carroll of the WCM Group discussed some of the latest developments in the Clean Air Act. Specifically, he focused on the accidental release prevention requirements in 40 CFR Part 68.

The provisions apply to the owner or operator of a stationary source that has more than a threshold quantity of a regulated substance. The provisions take effect July 1, 1999, or three years after the date on which a material is first listed as a regulated substance, or the date on which a regulated substance is first present above a threshold quantity.

Tank trailers are not considered stationary sources as long as the cargo is in transportation. EPA considers a container to be in transportation as long as it is attached to the motive power (a tractor) that delivered it to the site, Carroll said. If a tank trailer is detached from the motive power, and therefore no longer in transportation, the contents must be considered in the threshold determination.

The rules cover 140 substances plus DOT-listed explosives. A few of the substances and threshold quantities are anhydrous ammonia (TQ 10,000 pounds), aqueous ammonia with a 20% concentration or greater (TQ 20,000 pounds), fluorine (TQ 1,000 pounds), chlorine dioxide (TQ 1,000 pounds), and sulfur trioxide (TQ 10,000 pounds). Compliance starts with a determination of the threshold quantity. Next, the operator must develop a worst-case release scenario. The worst-case release quantity is the greatest amount held in a single vessel or pipe.

In step three, the operator determines which of three programs apply to the facility. Criteria for Program 1 include no death or injury or response and restoration activities for an environmental release in the past five years. The distance to a toxic or flammable endpoint for a worst-case release assessment is less than the distance to any public receptor. Emergency response procedures have been coordinated with the local emergency planning and response organizations.

Program 2 is for operations that don't meet the eligibility requirements of Programs 1 or 3. Carroll said that tank fleets and tank wash racks probably will qualify for Programs 1 or 2.

Program 3 is the most severe, and seems to be intended more for manufacturers. It is for companies that don't meet Program 1 eligibility requirements. In addition, the processes at the facility are described by SIC codes 2611, 2812, 2819, 2821, 2865, 2869, 2873, 2879, or 2911. In addition, the facility processes are subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration PSM regulation.

Release prevention programs will not be required for Program 1, but they are mandatory for Programs 2 and 3. For instance, Program 2 calls for development of safety information, hazard analysis, operating procedures, training and maintenance programs, compliance audits, and an incident investigation program.

Program One Under Program 1, managers must develop an emergency response program that coordinates emergency activities with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and local fire department. Program 2 calls for development of emergency response programs and plans. The facility also must work with the LEPC and local fire department.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are part of another EPA regulatory drive. Loading and unloading standards for VOCs already are in place in Texas, and EPA is now working on a national standard, according to John Conley, National Tank Truck Carriers.

The agency wants cradle-to-grave capture of vapors, and cleaning racks will be affected. EPA wants to know what happens at wash racks with regard to VOCs. A proposed rule should be published next year with a final rule coming in 2001.

Increased regulatory and enforcement activity also can be expected from OSHA. "Control of OSHA has been given over to organized labor as payback for help in the last presidential election," Conley said. "Driven by organized labor, OSHA is gaining greater influence over transportation activities."

Confined Space Confined-space entry is another OSHA concern, according to John C Torbitt, a consultant with extensive tank cleaning experience. Confined-space entry is a regular activity at most wash racks, and managers and employees need to stay up to date on the regulations.

Recently, OSHA has focused increased attention on respirators. Torbitt pointed out that OSHA has filed 99 citations in the past five years in conjunction with the Respiratory Protection Standard. The citations concerned various situations involving failure of the employer to control exposures in emergencies; control exposure to unknown concentrations of a toxic substance; control exposure to a contaminant that was a clearly recognized hazard even though no OSHA permissible exposure level (PEL) existed; provide and require the use of a respirator for a confined space; or ensure the proper use of a respirator in a situation involving improper storage of chemicals.

For enforcement purposes, OSHA considers all oxygen-deficient atmosphere situations to have the potential to be immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH). Exposure assessments must be conducted when employees are exposed to a respiratory hazard and/or are required to wear respirators.

Exposures must be characterized through methods that may include actual monitoring at a worksite, exposure data from industry or suppliers, and calculations of concentration based on amount used (mathematical models). Data from industrywide surveys by trade associations may be used as long as they closely resemble the processes and work conditions described in the survey.

If an employer cannot identify the contaminant or reasonably estimate employee exposures, the confined-space atmosphere should be considered immediately dangerous to life and health. The only exception would be if the employer could prove that even under worst-case conditions the exposure would not reach IDLH levels.

Respirator Selection With some exceptions, air-purifying respirators can be used for most air contaminants. Air-purifying respirators are not allowed in unknown or IDLH atmospheres, in oxygen-deficient atmospheres, or in situations where the employer cannot prevent the canister or cartridge from becoming saturated. These types of respirators also cannot be worn if prohibited by specific OSHA standards.

"OSHA believes that it is prudent for employers to select more, rather than less, protective respirators that will reduce employee exposure to a level below the concentration indicated as hazardous by the scientific literature," Torbitt said.

Respirators for gases and vapors must be equipped with an end-of-service-life indicator, or the employer must establish a canister or change schedule. In addition, worksite policies must require a worker to immediately leave the work area to change filters or replace the respirator upon smelling or being irritated by a substance while wearing a respirator.

Even if respirators are worn, the confined-space atmosphere must be tested by qualified personnel. Frequency of retesting depends on the nature of the confined space and the initial test results.