January 15, 2010

Covanta Fined in Connecticut for Dioxins & Other Air Pollution. November 2009.

Much of this government report is Disney Land spin.   Read between the lines.

  • How much Dioxin is released when the keen government testers are not around? They only do occasional spot checks.
  • Correcting PM2.5 particulate air pollution violations took not one hour but two whole months!
  • Amazingly, Covanta now has to obey the law: "Consent Order requires updates and improvements in maintenance and operations procedures required by DEP permits and Connecticut state law"

    DEP Announces Settlements with CRRA and Covanta for Air Emissions Violations at Plants in Wallingford and Hartford

    Settlements will improve plant operations and provide $355,000 to fund new municipal recycling efforts


    The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has reached settlements with the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority (CRRA) and Covanta for cases involving air emissions violations at trash-to-energy plants in Wallingford and Hartford that will improve operating procedures at these facilities and provide funding for new municipal recycling initiatives.  Covanta operates both facilities under contract with CRRA.
    Under key provisions of the settlements:
    • A payment of $355,000 will be made into a DEP fund for environmental projects as the result of a violation of permit limits for dioxin emissions at the Wallingford facility.  These funds will be used by DEP to assist municipalities in strengthening recycling programs, which will save money for cities and towns by reducing their costs for refuse disposal;
    • A new monitoring system will be installed and operated to provide continuous ammonia emissions data from the Hartford plant as a result of violations of permit limits for ammonia emissions at this facility.  The system is expected to cost approximately $70,000.  The presence of ammonia in the air contributes to the formation of fine particulate matter, a federally regulated air pollutant.
    DEP Commissioner Amey Marrella said, "In these two cases, there were clear violations of air pollution control requirements that were established to protect the quality of our air and the health of our residents.  The agreements we have reached will help make certain that these plants operate in compliance with all permit conditions at all times."

    "These settlements also contain provisions that will benefit local communities.  The Wallingford settlement will provide funding for DEP to work with cities and towns across Connecticut to increase recycling rates.  This will help reduce municipal costs for waste disposal as well as achieve other environmental benefits associated with recycling," Commissioner Marrella said.  "In the Hartford case, the investment in new and innovative equipment at that plant will prevent the emission of excess ammonia, which is especially important in an urban area where air quality is already impaired."

    Details on the Wallingford Consent Order
    The Consent Order requires a payment of $355,000 to the DEP to be used to support municipal initiatives – such as "single stream" recycling – to increase recycling rates.  

    The dioxin violations at the plant were discovered during the facility’s annual performance tests conducted on May 23, 2007.   Follow-up testing on October 9 and 10, 2007 showed that dioxin emissions from the plant were back within permitted limits. 
    During the initial tests and subsequent diagnostic testing, actual dioxin emissions were measured between 4% and 33% higher than the allowable permit limit.  DEP consulted with the Connecticut Department of Public Health and confirmed that these dioxin emissions levels were still within applicable health based standards and did not pose a threat to the public health.

    The Consent Order also addresses violations at this facility stemming from the failure to properly perform quarterly audits on the facility’s continuous emissions monitoring equipment during the third quarter of 2006 This resulted in data from the facility being deemed invalid for compliance demonstration purposes.  The facility implemented corrective action by the close of the third quarter of 2006 and valid data has been collected since that date.
    In addition to the payment to DEP for the recycling project, the settlement requires: 
    • A report detailing the cause of the excessive dioxin emissions;
    • More frequent tests for dioxin emissions from 2009 through 2013; 
    • Evaluation of the environmental impact of the increased use of carbon to control dioxin emissions.

    Details on Mid-Connecticut (Hartford) Consent Order
    The violations involved emissions in excess of the maximum allowable permit limits for particulate matter and ammonia.  The violations were discovered through emissions testing mandated by DEP.  

    The violation of the particulate matter emissions limit was discovered June 13, 2007 and corrected by August 8, 2007.   The May 4, 2007 emissions test showed emissions of particulate matter were 13% higher than the permit limit.  The violation of the ammonia emissions limit was discovered on June 17, 2008 and corrected by July 8, 2008.  The May 5, 2008 test showed that ammonia emissions were 12.25% higher than the permit limit.

      In response to the violations, the Consent Order requires updates and improvements in  maintenance and operations procedures required by DEP permits and Connecticut state law.  In addition, in lieu of paying a civil penalty of $66,197, an investment of at least that amount must be made in the installation and operation of a system that will provide for continuous monitoring of ammonia emissions.   

    The anticipated initial cost of the system is approximately $70,000 and the system will be the first of its kind at a Connecticut trash-to-energy facility.  The new system surpasses the monitoring and testing requirements for facilities like the Mid-Connecticut Project.  

    The monitoring system at the Mid-Connecticut Project will provide continuous real time data concerning ammonia emissions to ensure compliance with permit limits.  It will help provide opportunities to minimize ammonia emissions and PM2.5 emissions in the ambient air.
    Ammonia is a precursor to the formation of PM2.5, also known as fine particulate matter, which is a federally regulated air pollutant.  There are currently portions of Connecticut that do not meet federal standards for the presence of PM2.5 in the ambient atmosphere.

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