While the Environmental Protection Agency flounders with a dysfunctional regulation program for air toxics, unchecked pollution threatens Americans' health. To address EPA's regulatory lapse, Earthjustice filed today the fifth of seven lawsuits against EPA on behalf of Sierra Club.
Today's lawsuit challenges EPA's failure to set any emission standards for a wide variety of incinerator categories, including sewage sludge incinerators, municipal waste combustors with capacities of less than 39 tons/day, wood waste incinerators, construction and demolition waste incinerators, agricultural waste incinerators, residential waste incinerators, and petroleum contaminated waste treatment facilities.
"Because EPA has done so little to prepare its regulations for these incinerators, information about their numbers, location and emissions are incomplete," says Jane Williams, chair of Sierra Club's Waste Committee. "Sewage sludge incinerators alone, however, are believed to number more than 130 and to emit significant quantities of dioxins and metals."
The other categories of incinerators that EPA has failed to regulate also are likely to emit significant amounts of toxic pollution, given the contaminants in the waste they accept. Further, because of their small size and specialized function, incinerators in the OSWI category tend to be located in or near the residential areas where the waste that they combust is generated. "They may be small," points out Ms. Williams, "but they pose a big threat to public health in the communities where they're located."
"Under a binding deadline," said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew, "EPA was required to establish controls for all of these incinerator categories by November 2000. Instead, the agency ignored its obligation for years, and then tried to write itself a five-year extension. EPA now claims that it will promulgate the required regulations by November 2005, but has offered no guarantees that it will not write itself another extension when that date rolls around."
"Sidestepping deadlines does no good for the people who are exposed to these incinerators' toxic pollution," says Ms. Williams. Right now, these incinerators are completely uncontrolled, and they're pumping out highly toxic persistent pollutants that can cause cancer, birth defects, respiratory disease, and other serious health damage. There is no reason whatsoever to allow this kind of pollution to continue."
Earthjustice filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
For more information, contact Suzanne Carrier of Earthjustice (202-667-4500) or Bob Palzer, Ph.D. of Sierra Club (541-482-2492).