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money, and the experts to enter a bureaucratic battle in its final hour. ALTHOUGH BOTH STATE regulatory agents and company officials say they are sure that the Systech/La Farge waste-derived-fuel plan will meet the newest standards for pollution control, there is reason to be cautious. The use of hazardous waste as supplemental fuel for cement kilns is a new procedure, and it has yet to bear out claims of environmental safety. In Holiday Valley, a small community in northwestern Los Angeles County, California, residents contend that the nearby waste-fuel operation is destroying their health. They report headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, chronic fatigue, and irritation of the eyes and mouth. Although cement plant officials say their testing shows the plant to be safe, the California Department of Health Services has begun an investigation. If the burn permit is approved for the Systech/La Farge cement plant in New Braunfels, large quantities of heavy metals can legally be discharged into the air. According to their revised permit application, up to 58.343 pounds per hour of zinc, 0.722 pounds per hour of lead, and 0.0183 pounds per hour of arsenic could legally issue, from the La Farge stack. Both the company and the regulatory agencies contend that these levels of emissions are harmless. Chadbourne, speaking for Systech/La Farge, further stated that “actual” emissions will be far below these levels, perhaps as little as 10 percent of what’s permitted. And as for the seemingly large levels of fugitive emissions \(material which escapes during the course of handling said that the figures on the permits list the amount that would escape in a worst-case scenario that is, if every valve in the plant were leaking. As with most permit applications to the TWC and TACB, the numbers that Systech/ La Farge gives for fugitive and stack emissions are tailored to limits that the regulatory agencies have established. These “effectsof material that the agencies believe can be released into the environment without harm. According to Jo Ann Wiersema, a toxicologist with the TACB, the state determines ESLs by researching occupational data, animal experiments, and epidemiological studies. To date, close to 2000 compounds have been assigned an ESL, and the list continues to grow and be updated. For instance, until fairly recently, butadeine, a compound used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber, was considered safe even at high levels of exposure. However, when researchers reviewed data which described the synergistic effect of butadeine in combination with other compounds, they discovered that for lab animals it was highly carcinogenic. Although some researchers still doubt that butadeine is as carcinogenic for humans as it is for small animals, the ESL for the substance has been amended to a much lower level. The example of butadeine and its changing ESL rating best describes what worries many residents of New Braunfels. Since the Systech/La Farge operation will most likely meet every state and federal standard for emissions control, community opposition to the use of waste-derived-fuel comes down to a distrust of the whole regulatory process. First, some residents fear that the emissions levels now considered safe will someday be considered dangerous: In fact, they wonder if they are to be part of the “real-time” test for this new method of destroying hazardous waste. Second, many in New Braunfels feel that the relationship between the regulatory agencies and industry is too close. At the July 25 town meeting with the TWC, several people in the audience noted angrily that the Systech/La Farge officials and state regulatory agents spoke comfortably on a first-name basis. Systech/La Farge is, however, not secretive about this close relationship with state and federal agencies. In a company brochure, Systech explains that, “much of the scientific data used to establish standards and regulations for the industry [i.e., cement kiln use of waste-derived-fuel] were gathered at Systech/La Farge facilities.” For opponents of Systech/La Farge, their concern about the intertwining of industry and regulatory agencies became greater when Cookie Barboza, a New Braunfels resident, asked at the July 25 town meeting how the state would monitor emissions from the kiln. Bill Colbert, director of public information for the TWC, responded: “If they [Systech/ La Farge] get a permit to burn the waste from the Air Control Board, they are the monitoring and enforcement agency.” The audience shouted out their disbelief. “Will they be policing themselves, or will someone be checking up on them?” Barboza asked. Colbert replied, “They are the state agency responsible for those activities.” Some in the audience laughed and others booed. Given the limited budgets of the TWC and the TACB, and the large number of facilities’ they must regulate, it is not surprising that these agencies delegate the responsibility for monitoring emissions and ensuring compliance with the permit. As some officials in these agencies readily admit, the problem rests ultimately with the Legislature. “We have 70 percent of all U.S. chemical production here in Texas. And I have only four toxicologists in my department. We need more money for more personnel,” said Jo Ann Wiersema of the TACB. Wiersema and others believe that the regulatory agencies can be more effective if they receive the right to charge industry larger inspection fees and perhaps even exact a $1-per-car emissioninspection. But for now, the agencies must draw up regulations as best they can and trust that industry will cooperate in good faith. Kiln and fugitive emissions are the most obvious topic of concern in the debate over the Systech/La Farge plan to use hazardous waste as supplemental fuel in the Balcones cement kiln. However, there are also questions about the transportation of waste to the plant and disposal of the waste products from the kiln. While Systech/La Farge officials say that there will be no ash, since all the materials that enter the kiln later exit in the clinker product \(one of the intermediate, post-kiln cuss “kiln dust,” a compound that must be regularly flushed from the kiln to keep it operational. David Ferrell of the TACB, Troy Wattler of the TWC, and John Chadbourne of Systech/La Farge have all said that the composition of kiln dust directly reflects the composition of the kiln feed. Yet the state agencies do not consider this “dust” a product of a hazardous waste burn, and unlike the ash from hazardous waste incinerators, it does.not have to buried in specially designed landfills. La Farge has said that the kiln dust will be deposited in their clay quarry in Seguin. If the dust should in fact prove to be toxic, there is no guarantee that the quarry will be a safe container and prevent contamination of groundwater and nearby land. In order to transport the large quantities of hazardous waste to the kiln \(up to 15 million train cars a week will pass through New Braunfels. The trucks will follow 1-35 to the Solms Road exit, and there they will turn and travel down two-lane county roads for a little over a mile. The train cars will have to move through the heart of New Braunfels. Residents are extremely worried about hazardous waste spills. For many years, Texas has led the nation in rail and trucking accidents. Coincidentally, on the night before the town meeting with the TWC, a train derailed at the local switching station. Compounding the danger is the fact that the city does not have the personnel to respond to a hazardous waste accident. If the Systech/La Farge plan to burn hazardous waste is approved, New Braunfels must either raise the money to enlarge and retrain their fire department, or rely on help from Austin and San Antonio. Austin is 60 miles from New Braunfels, San Antonio is 30. In an interview with the Observer, John Chadbourne of Systech/La Farge has said that the company has no responsibility to develop an emergency response plan for transportation accidents, and that due to insurance concerns, only “limited advice” can be offered in the case of an accident. Despite the issues raised by opponents of the waste-derived fuel program, state regulatory agencies consider the process the best means of destroying hazardous waste. They destruction and removal efficiency of orand the conversion of waste to an industrial fuel. Yet they avoid questions about metals emissions, disposal of “kiln dust,” and the dangers of transporting hazardous materials through populated areas. For the residents of New Braunfels who Continued on page 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7