Comments by Craig Volland at the January 4, 2012 KCK Hearing on EPA’s proposed emission standards for the Fiberglass Manufacturing Industry

These comments are presented on behalf of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. More extensive written comments will be provided by representatives of the National Sierra Club.

I want to thank the USEPA for scheduling this hearing at the request of local citizens in Kansas City, Kansas, because we have two large fiberglass insulation manufacturing plants, Certainteed and Owens Corning, located within a mile of each other in the Fairfax Industrial District.

However, this hearing came about, in part, because of long running legal actions by the National Air Toxics Taskforce of the Sierra Club, who challenged, among other things, the use of particulate matter measures as a surrogate for potentially volatile heavy metal compounds. It was only because USEPA finally recognized the need to require specific measurements of certain HAP metal emissions that they discovered that Certainteed’s K2 “Oxyfuel” glass melting furnace was emitting an unexpectedly large amount of hexavalent chromium.

Hexavalent chromium is a confirmed human cancer-causing agent that can also cause asthma attacks and damage to the nose and respiratory system in sufficient concentrations. This incident serves as the poster child as to why EPA should minimize the use of surrogates in all regulated industries. It also demonstrates why EPA has the duty under the MACT review (Sec 112d6) both to “look back” at HAP reductions now achievable and to “look around” at developments in technology, processes and work practices to update the rule to obtain all appropriate emission reductions.

We agree with EPA’s assessment that the health risk from this source category is currently unacceptable. However, for the following reasons, we are not convinced that the proposed new standard provides an ample margin of safety for the health of the community.

The Owens Corning plant, which has one “Oxyfuel” glass melting furnace similar to Certainteed’s K2, also showed emissions of hexavalent chromium though in much smaller quantities. The most recent stack tests at Owens Corning’s 70 north and 70 south furnaces showed that hexavalent was 25 and 16% of total chromium emissions respectively, while their K5 “Oxyfuel” furnace was 86% hexavalent similar to the 92% found at Certainteed.

This indicates that the higher temperature Oxyfuel design is part of the problem. This is of special concern in KCK because Owens Corning has reported sizable air emissions of chromium to the Toxic Release Inventory (120 to 250 lbs. annually since 2001) apparently without checking to determine the type of chromium emitted. So it is likely that citizens near the plant have been exposed to higher hexavalent chromium emissions than was assumed in the health risk assessment conducted by EPA. Even the EPA’s limited analysis showed that the Owens Corning plant adds about 25% to the risk calculated from the Certainteed operation.

A subsequent test at Certainteed’s K2 furnace showed a much lower emission of hexavalent chromium. Nonetheless EPA did the right thing by initiating direct monitoring of the air in Vara Garland Park just south of the plant.

The health risk assessment is not conservative for other reasons as well. The EPA’s model did not consider risks from other nearby sources of industrial pollution that include a medical waste incinerator, the General Motors Assembly Plant, and the Quindaro coal-fired power station. The area is also home to large numbers of diesel trucks and trains.

Some neighboring residents live on the bluffs overlooking the Fairfax Industrial District at an elevation above the tops of some smoke stacks. While EPA’s model does take nearby terrain into account, it makes the exposure calculation only at the center of the census tract. This would underestimate the risk to residents living on the edge of the tract towards the stacks. Nor would the modeling adequately consider the risks to anyone working regularly just beyond the fence line of the Certainteed plant.

The model does not fully take into account the lifetime harm that can be caused when a child is exposed at an early age to toxic chemicals. EPA’s own recent draft toxicological review in 2010 discusses scientific research showing that the cancer risk assessment for hexavalent chromium causes mutagenic effects. EPA should follow this and the scientifically supported approach of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and use age-dependent adjustment factors for all carcinogens including hexavalent chromium.

Finally it’s obvious from the way these hexavalent chromium emissions were only discovered after these plants have operated for many years, and from how the numbers vary, that EPA needs to collect much more data from the industry. Thus we conclude that EPA’s health risk assessment is not conservative, and additional analysis is needed.

Certainteed very recently shut down their K2 glass melting furnace until 2013 because, they said, of unfavorable market conditions. Thus the currently planned 6 months of monitoring at Vara Garland Park is likely to capture no emissions at all from that furnace and to greatly underestimate the risk that will occur when K2 starts up again. EPA should extend the monitoring program to at least six months after Certainteed’s K2 furnace returns to service. Considering also that the risk in KCK falls disproportionately on minorities and people who are economically disadvantaged, additional monitoring is a matter of fairness as well.

Regarding formaldehyde, an industry letter in the docket indicated that OC had changed their curing process to eliminate the emission of this toxic pollutant. However the data inputs to EPA’s modeling showed OC’s KC plant among the highest emitters. That is consistent with TRI data showing emission of some 60,000 pounds of formaldehyde in 2010 down from a peak 86,000 in 2005. EPA needs to confirm when OC made the change. The industry letter also indicated that CT had not yet followed suit but was planning to do so. This is important because of the aforementioned concentration of facilities in KCK and the fact that formaldehyde is one of the risk drivers.

It is crucial that EPA follow through on their intention to regulate area sources in this category because the elimination of formaldehyde emissions may allow a plant to become technically a minor source while still posing a serious risk from highly dangerous pollutants like hexavalent chromium.

There appears to be some inconsistency in the actual number for the chromium limit. On page 72792 of the narrative it’s given as 0.006 pounds per 1000 tons of glass pulled while on page 72801 it’s 0.06 pounds per 1000 tons of glass pulled. In the draft rule, 63.182, it says 0.00006 pounds per ton. We urge EPA to set the strongest chromium limit and to set robust limits on all other toxic air pollutants to ensure that the Kansas City community receives the required “ample” level of protection for our health.

Kansas Chapter, Sierra Club January 4, 2012

National EPA hearing held in KCK. On Jan 4, 1012 USEPA held a public hearing to take comment on their update of the rules governing toxic air pollutants from the Wool Fiberglass Manufacturing Industry. Two large fiberglass insulation plants are located within one mile of each other in Kansas City, Ks. and recent stack tests showed an unexpectedly large emission of the cancer-causing agent, hexavalent chromium, from one of them. The chapter prepared a fact sheet and guide to assist members of the predominantly minority community living near the plants. The chapter received valuable assistance from the Club’s National Air Toxics Task Force and our attorney, Earth Justice. Chapter Air Quality Chair, Craig Volland, testified for the Chapter, and ex-com member, Richard Mabion, presented on behalf of the NAACP. If you would like a copy of the Chapter’s testimony email Craig Volland <volland@kansas.sierraclub.org>

 

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