Rendell Calls on EPA to Reverse Ruling Exempting Certain Industries from TCE Emmissions Standards

HARRISBURG — Gov. Edward G. Rendell today called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reverse a decision to exempt certain industries from future emission reductions of TCE and other degreasers. The governor said data presented to the EPA by DEP clearly demonstrated the negative effects of TCE on air quality in southeastern Pennsylvania.

EPA’s decision is part of the agency’s long-awaited revisions to the air toxic standards, and was made in spite of extensive air monitoring data in the Collegeville area of Montgomery County that found high levels of TCE in the air as a result of degreasing operations at two nearby industrial facilities.

“I am very disappointed to see that EPA, with full knowledge of the impact that TCE emissions have on air quality in the Collegeville area, has chosen not to impose a limit that would protect our citizens, and further, has chosen an option that was never presented in the agency’s proposed amendments,” Rendell said.

Because the higher than average annual concentration of TCE in the Collegeville area has an impact on excess lifetime cancer risks, the Department of Environmental Protection has been working with those companies to voluntarily reduce TCE emissions. Both companies have stated that they will continue with plans to reduce emissions regardless of EPA actions.

EPA’s amendments to the air toxics standards affect the halogenated solvent cleaning industry. The new rule caps emissions of methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and trichloroethylene which are solvents used in cleaning machines to remove soils such as grease, oils, waxes, carbon deposits, fluxes, and tars from metal, plastic, fiberglass, printed circuit boards, and other surfaces.

However, EPA decided to exempt three industry sectors – aerospace, narrow tubing and facilities that use continuous web-cleaning and halenogenated solvent cleaning machines — from the new rules based on industry estimates of the cost of reducing emissions, the technical feasibility and time to comply, ruling that current emission levels for TCE and other degreasers is an acceptable health risk. Two narrow-tube manufacturing facilities in the Collegeville area – Superior Tube and Accellent — are exempted as a result of this decision.

Rendell has written to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson objecting to the agency’s reasons for the exemption and has been in contact with lawmakers at the national and state level to express his administration’s deep concerns over the lack of protection offered to state residents.

“We are outraged that the EPA would subject Pennsylvanians to enhanced cancer risks on the mistaken belief that reducing emissions is too expensive for industry,” Rendell said. “We know that stronger emissions standards for TCE are feasible and affordable as evidenced by the ongoing voluntary reductions being pursued by Superior Tube and Accellent, and I am grateful for their commitment to protect public health despite EPA’s exemptions.”

Depending on industry processes, TCE emission reductions of 50 to 90 percent can be accomplished by use of carbon adsorbers.

“I am urging the EPA to immediately reconsider this course of action and put the health of our citizens first and foremost,” Rendell said.

DEP shared results of its Jan.19 air monitoring report for the Collegeville-Trappe area of Montgomery County with EPA, indicating concerns about airborne TCE levels found at higher levels than other sites in Pennsylvania.

DEP first noted spikes of airborne TCE levels in Collegeville during mobile monitoring in 2004. In a follow-up to this finding, DEP began operating air monitoring stations in Evansburg State Park and at the YMCA on College Avenue in Trappe in January 2005. Although many compounds detected from these sampling locations were similar to other sites in urban or industrial areas of Pennsylvania, the levels of TCE were higher. Compared with an annual average concentration of 0.03 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) of airborne TCE at monitoring sites in nearby Delaware County, 0.14 ppbv of TCE was detected in Evansburg, with 0.26 ppbv detected in Trappe.

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