Environmental & Safety Issues: Industry Advocates Vindicated on the Effluent Rules
In January 2001, EPA proposed a comprehensive water pollution point source category ruling covering 18 Metal Products and Machinery (MP&M) industrial sectors. The ruling was designed to establish pretreatment standards, new source performance standards and effluent limitation guidelines for 10,300 of the estimated 63,000 dischargers in the MP&M industrial sectors.
The MP&M proposed regulation would have established technology-based effluent limitations and pretreatment standards for wastewater discharges for new and existing facilities that manufacture, rebuild or maintain finished metal products, parts or machines in any of the following industrial sectors: aerospace, aircraft, bus and truck, electronic equipment, hardware, household equipment, instruments, job shops, mobile industrial equipment, motor vehicle, office machine, ordnance, precious metals and jewelry, printed wiring boards, railroad, ships and boats, stationary industrial equipment, and miscellaneous metal products.
Part of the concern and confusion with the new standard is that EPA has already promulgated effluent limitation guidelines and standards for 13 existing metals industries. Due to the large scope of the MP&M rule, EPA was expected to carefully evaluate the potential overlap with other metals-related effluent guidelines, particularly metal finishing (40 CFR 433) and electroplating (40 CFR 413). These regulations cover metal manufacturing, metal forming, and component finishing, as summarized in Table I.
Over the past 18 months, EPA has received over 1,800 comments on the new ruling. On June 7, 2002 the EPA announced that changes to the ruling would be needed given the viability of new information provided through the public comment and stakeholder meeting processes. Significant to this development was data indicating that the amount of pollutant to be removed by instituting the new standard was overestimated and the cost to comply was underestimated. As a result, EPA is in the process of updating previous information on the costs and benefits of the new standard with new analytical wastewater data to recalculate pollutant reductions, costs, economic impacts, benefits and limits.
In addition to revising the limits and standards based on the new data, EPA is considering other revisions to the proposed standard, including:
- A subcategory or segment for Zinc Platers
- Expanding the definition of "oily operations" thereby allowing more facilities to move from the General Metals subcategory (metal bearing) to the less stringent Oily Wastes subcategory (oil-bearing)
- Setting new source standards equal to existing source limits
- Allowing companies to use an Environmental Management System for the General Metals subcategory as an alternative to meeting the MP&M limits
- Not regulating sulfide, molybdenum, and some other pollutants for the metal-bearing subcategories
- Using pollution prevention alternatives as viable methods of opting out of the standard
- Making changes to the economic impact and benefits methodologies, including net present value tests and capital outlays reflected in cash flow, adjustments for labor costs and revising the pollution exposure effects in children and recreational water users
With the significant modifications suggested, it seems questionable that the December 31, 2002 obligatory deadline to have final action on the MP&M effluent standard will be met as stated in the consent decree between the EPA and the Natural Resources Defense Council. This should play to the favor of the now vindicated industrial sectors that have vehemently fought the new rule. In order to meet the rule-making deadline, it is likely that the EPA will allow more flexibility to industry in the revisions. It can now be assumed that everything within the rule is up for negotiation, including no new rule at all.
More information on the MP&M rules is available at www.epa.gov/water science/guide/mpm.