VOCs: The New Effluent

by Teresa Austin, Asst. Ed.; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 345 East 47th Street, New York City, NY.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 3, Pg. 42-45

Document Type: Feature article


The Clean Air Act of 1990, in addition to many state and local regulations, has officials of publicly-owned treatment works (POTWs) shifting their focus, and funds, to air toxic emissions and controls. EPA estimates that 1.49 cancer cases per year stem from POTWs (over a 70 year period for a most exposed person), compared to total incidence of approximately 2,000 cancer cases from air toxic emissions from all sources. Nevertheless, federal standards are pending and expected to affect facilities that emit more than 25 tons of toxic pollutants annually. This roughly translates into any faciity treating more than 50 mgd, or about 90 POTWs nationwide, and another 50 planned for construction over the next 15 years. More may be affected because smaller plants must meet best available control technology (BACT) as set up by EPA. Also, smaller POTWs may find that they're snared by increasingly strict local and state regulations. About 26 states have or will soon have air toxics control programs. This sets up a potential regulatory conflict. As it often does, EPA is considering technology-based standards (to be in place by 1995) with compliance around 2000. Yet most states and local governments are developing risk-based, one per one million people standards. And most local efforts are ahead of EPA, with some setting compliance as early as 1995.

Subject Headings: Volatile organic compounds | Effluents

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