Are you certain that you thoroughly understand the Non-hazardous Secondary Material Rule with regard to the secondary materials you burn as fuels?

Posted on September 17, 2012

The EPA has been working for years on industrial boiler source rules for hazardous air pollutants.  The buzz word is Boiler MACT.  The issue is that the emission limits for boilers depend on if the combusted non-hazardous secondary material (NHSM) is considered a “fuel” or a “waste”.  An example of a NHSM is chipped up pallets and paper sludge which burn really well BUT this may be considered a waste.  The criteria for making this determination are the main reason that the industrial boiler rules have not been finalized.  A NHSM that is deemed a waste that is burned in a boiler is subject to the incinerator rule.  Most if not all industrial boilers that fall into this category will cease operation because the emission limits for the incinerator rule are not achievable.

EPA attempted to set the criteria for determining whether a NHSM is a fuel or waste by presuming that a NHSM is a waste unless it remains within the control of the generator and it meets the legitimacy criteria, or it is sufficiently processed and it meets the legitimacy criteria.

Within control of the generator means that the NHSM is generated and burned in a boiler at the generating facility; or it is generated and burned in boilers at different facilities provided the facility is controlled by the generator.  EPA took a very restrictive position on the meaning of control so that even a very robust contractual arrangement involving a third party (e.g. tolling contract) that ensures control is not sufficient to qualify as a fuel.  With this being said the reproposed rule added that scrap tires managed under a state program and resinated wood are fuels whether or not they are within the control of the generator but left other NHSM like paper sludge on the fence waiting on the final rule.

NHSM that are not specifically listed as fuels have to meet all of the legitimacy criteria as follows:

NHSM has to be managed as a valuable commodity, meaning that you have to demonstrate that you handle and store it in such a way that is demonstrates that it has value.  NHSM stored in piles are of particular concern to EPA because they must be managed in way to protect the environment from pollutants entering streams from stormwater run-off.
NHSM must have a meaningful heating value.  EPA has stated that NHSM with a heating value of 5,000 BTU per pound has a meaning heating value.  Most paper sludge has a heating value lower than this which may require the facility to document how they sufficiently process it with other fuels.
NHSM must contain contaminants at levels that are the same or less than the traditional fuel for which the boiler is designed to burn.  This is by far the most difficult evaluation because there are many contaminates.  EPA made this evaluation easier in the reproposed rule by changing the comparison to fuels the boiler can accommodate, removing some contaminants from the list to be evaluated that should not be in NHSM or that are products of combustion, and allowing the comparisons to be based upon groups of compounds that are similar.

Many NHSM may not meet all of the legitimacy criteria however they can be sufficiently processed to do so.  Processing includes, but is not limited to, operations necessary to: Remove or destroy contaminants, significantly improving the fuel characteristics such as sizing or drying the material in combination with other operations and chemically improving the as fired energy content.  Minimal operations that result only in modifying the size of the material by shredding do not constitute processing.

It is pretty clear from this brief summary of a very complicated rule that the burden to prove that NHSM you burn is a fuel and not a waste is significant and there is risk that someone could make a case that your NHSM is not a fuel.  The EPA recognizes this and has made a case-by-case petitioning process where the EPA makes this determination for you but beware because the whole process is open to the public.

In conclusion, we recommend that you get some expert help to prepare the required documentation that your secondary material is a fuel and not a waste.  For more information about how Environmental 360 can help you with your Boiler MACT needs, please contact Dell Majure at

Source: E360 Old Site

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