Public Lab Research note


How to search the EPA website for air pollutants by industry

by kgradow1 | June 08, 2020 21:36 08 Jun 21:36 | #23798 | #23798

Purpose

I want to be able to look up regulatory information for stationary pollution sources -- factories, boilers, energy facilities, and refineries -- to identify which hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are associated with specific manufacturing processes. If I decide to take an air sample near an industrial facility, what am I looking for?

Background

The Clean Air Act in the United States sets national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for 6 common pollutants, also called criteria pollutants, that are known to cause health problems and damage property. These pollutants are regulated by the EPA at the federal level; they include ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

In addition to these six pollutants, the EPA regulates emissions for 187 hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) that pose a threat to human health and the environment. What are the EPA's guidelines for those chemicals? How do I figure out which HAPs are associated with specific manufacturing processes?

Materials needed


Step 1

Go to the EPA page on stationary sources. This page covers emissions for facilities that don't move -- i.e. factories, refineries, boilers and power plants. We are going to use this page to look up the regulations for the specific type of facility that we want to find information about.

Step 2

Under Industry Sector Groups, search by industry to narrow down the facility you are looking for. For example: Let's say there is a plant in my town that processes nutritional yeast. I am going to look under "Agriculture" to find the regs for that type of facility. If you know there is a factory near you but aren't sure what type, you can use the EPA's Enviromapper tool to find information about industrial sites near your location.

Step 3. Look up the specific manufacturing process.

Let's take another example. There is a factory nearby that smells like burning plastic. Using the industry search, I can look up the clean air standards for Foam, Fiber, Plastic, and Rubber products, where I find out that there are not only different materials -- acrylic, polystyrene, spandex, rubber -- but different standards that govern each type of production. At the very top of the page is a list of regulatory standards.

image description

Common standards you may encounter include:

National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants -- NESHAP

New Source Performance Standards -- NSPS

Control Techniques Guidelines - CTG

Alternative Control Techniques - ACT

There are a lot of standards! You can skip over this for now, but it's good to know where to look if you want look into the regulatory side of things. For now, let's take a look at the chart that breaks the list down by type of process. Each manufacturing process has link to the specific regulation as well as a reference code.

Step 4. Click on the link and read the Rules Summary to find any regulated HAPs.

If you don't know what's being produced, you can always do a neighborhood search on Enviromapper. In this case, I do that, and I figure out that it's a rubber tire factory. Here is the Rules Summary for rubber tire manufacturing, listed under the Clean Air Act standards for Foam, Fiber, Plastic and Rubber Products.

Here is the Rule Summary for rubber tire manufacturing.

No wonder it smells so bad! Rubber tire manufacturing is associated with emissions of the following hazardous air pollutants (HAPs): hexane, toluene, formaldehyde, styrene, and methanol. These are all regulated under NESHAP.

Troubleshooting

  • Page does not list a Rules Summary. For instance, if you click on the first link for electric utilities, you get a page with a bunch of links and no rules summary. This may be because the original rule has recently been updated and its replacement is still under review.
  • Page links to a static PDF with no links or summaries. For instance, when you look up the final link under asphalt products, you are linked directly to a PDF report. In this case, it looks like the regulations for this process haven't been updated since 1977, so you may need to dig through the original guidance -- linked here as a PDF -- to find the information

Wrap up

That's a quick overview of how to navigate this portion of the EPA's website!

I'm sure there are easier ways to find this information. If so, please let me know in the comments!

This is a quick reference that I was using, I figured it might be useful for others to try as well.

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Image credit: Smokestack in Detroit, Wikimedia Commons


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4 Comments

You can look up the actual reported emissions from many facilities using the EPA National Emission Inventory, which is compiled every three years:

https://www.epa.gov/air-emissions-inventories/2017-national-emissions-inventory-nei-data

This is pretty much exactly what I was hoping would happen when I posted this thread :). Thank you @DavidMack!


Sure, also for estimating emissions, see EPA AP-42 emission factors:

https://www.epa.gov/air-emissions-factors-and-quantification/ap-42-compilation-air-emissions-factors

And lots of scientific papers about emission assessment archived from Emissions Inventory Conferences (yes, there's a conference!):

https://www.epa.gov/air-emissions-inventories/international-emission-inventory-conference


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So, I'm new to air. i used the Emergency Response Mapping Application a lot.
There's a lot of geographical information on ERMA for your region, and you can do quick searches for facilities, like so: https://erma.noaa.gov/gulfofmexico/#/layers=14+36086+36078+408+36081+404&x=-90.80996&y=30.01808&z=13&panel=legend

It's nice because you can share the URL and even upload KMLs of your area of interest, if you have specialist reports.

For searches for pollution, I also use the ERIC Radius Search from LDEQ https://business.deq.louisiana.gov/Eric/EricReports/RadiusReportSelector

I imagine that other states have similar services.

ERIC was just updated with 2019 emissions. These are only major emissions. Here are the data limitations: https://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/Portals/0/AirQualityAssessment/Data%20Collection/EI/Limitations%20with%20the%20Emissions%20Reports.pdf

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