CONCORD, NH – Manchester will install equipment to limit the amount of mercury pollution emitted from a city-owned incinerator under an agreement between the city, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice. The city estimates it will spend more than $6 million to comply with the terms of this settlement, which includes installing and operating pollution control equipment at the incinerator.
“This agreement means cleaner air for communities in Manchester and improves the city’s compliance with important clean air laws,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn. “EPA is committed to working with cities like Manchester to reduce air pollution from sewage sludge incinerators in order to protect public health.”
The consent decree lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, provides a July 11, 2019 deadline, for the facility to commence operation of a mercury control system, and requires that the facility meet all other related Clean Air Act regulations by January 12, 2020. In the interim, Manchester will take measures to limit the mercury content of sewage sludge received at the incinerator. The facility will also pay a civil penalty of $131,800.
The following information on the case, including a timeline, was released Friday by the mayor’s office:
The City of Manchester owns and operates a Wastewater Treatment Plant that treats flows from Manchester, Bedford, Goffstown, and Londonderry. In the process of treating wastewater, a byproduct called sewage sludge is created. This byproduct must be disposed of, which the City of Manchester accomplishes by incineration, using an on-site fluidized bed incinerator.
The fluidized bed incinerator is regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the recently enacted Sewage Sludge Incinerator (SSI) regulations. Manchester’s fluidized bed incinerator currently exceeds the regulated mercury limit in these recently enacted SSI regulations, and is investing nearly $7 million to bring it into full compliance.
As per conditions in the Consent Decree agreed upon by the City of Manchester and the EPA, a compliance schedule and penalties were charged against the city for their period of non-compliance. In June 2018, EPD began construction of mercury removal equipment and systems, a process that should be completed by May of 2019.
There are currently 11 operating incinerators in New England. There were two other incinerators in New England that chose to end incinerator operations because the EPA’s new regulations made it cost prohibitive.
A full timeline of the process is as follows:
October 2010 – Proposed Rule was published in Federal Register
March 2011 – Final Rule published
2011/2012 – A number of lawsuits filed by wastewater industry against regulations
April 2012 – Denial of Petitions for Reconsideration
April 2015 – Proposed Rule published
April 2016 – Final Rule published with an effective date of May 31, 2016
Fall 2015 – EPD performed an initial stack test to prepare for SSI compliance. EPA rejected the test results.
July 2016 – The City was issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) by the EPA
August 2016 – At recommendation of City Solicitor, EPD engaged the services of McLane Middleton to provide legal assistance with the NOV
February 2017 – EPD engaged an engineer (Woodard & Curran) to design a treatment process to achieve SSI full compliance and to assist with regulatory submittals.
June 2018 to May 2019 – Construction of mercury removal equipment/systems
June 2019 – Finalizing negotiations of a Consent Decree (CD) with the EPA and the Department of Justice for SSI compliance. This CD will contain a compliance schedule and penalties for the period of non-compliance.
The City of Manchester sewage sludge incinerator processes sewage waste from Manchester and three neighboring communities. Incineration of sewage sludge results in emissions of various pollutants, including mercury, dioxins and furans, cadmium, lead, and carbon monoxide.
Under federal Clean Air Act rules that became effective in 2016, owners of sewage sludge incinerators must meet stringent emissions standards for 10 pollutants, must test their emissions, and must institute procedures to limit emissions. The Manchester facility failed to meet the compliance deadline for mercury emissions and for various other requirements of the rules. The City of Manchester worked with EPA on the compliance plan and schedule, set forth in the proposed consent decree, which are designed to ensure it complies with the emissions standards for all 10 pollutants.
- The Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire on September 11, 2018, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. It will be available on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.
- EPA Clean Air Act enforcement (www.epa.gov/enforcement/air-enforcement)
- Mercury (www.epa.gov/mercury/basic-information-about-mercury)