USEPA – Region 7 has been working on a mobile air emissions inventory (dubbed Gmap) to identify major immediate health concerns in the St. Louis area. On Oct 25, they also held two community meetings in the Lemp neighborhood to provide a status update on air monitoring efforts. So – if you don’t have your facility properly permitted and in compliance with construction or operational air emissions, you’re in for increased scrutiny from the agency and the public alike. The USEPA officials we work with stress that accuracy and timeliness in submitting your permit and responsiveness to agency questions are the keys to successful and relatively painless permitting, which many environmental consultants can assist with.
Another issue related to air permitting is keeping on top of the changing landscape of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). East St. Louis and St. Louis, as well as St. Charles and Jefferson Counties, are currently mapped as non-attainment zones for ozone. Proposed reductions in the allowable limits for particulate matter (PM) 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³) under the Clean Air Act, which could go into effect at any time, will result in the designation of additional non-attainment areas in the region and, accordingly, far greater difficulty in air permitting for new or expanding facilities. The current annual average primary standard for PM 2.5 is 12 µg/m³, whereas the proposed standard will likely fall to between 9-10 µg/m³. It’s also important to know that EPA recently announced $3.5 million for Environmental Justice projects across Missouri and that EJ is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge for industrial facilities housed in EJ communities, so if your facility is an air emitter, even if properly permitted, you could face operational and PR challenges.
Another important thing to be proactive about is National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for construction and wastewater or stormwater runoff. NPDES non-compliance is becoming a major concern for MDNR and EPA as Missouri has a higher non-compliance rate than many other states. And ditto for spill prevention, control, and countermeasure (SPCC) and stormwater pollution prevention plans (SWPPP). Facility compliance audits are a great tool to ensure you have everything in place so you don’t end up with unexpected notices of violation.
Finally, as hopefully many of you are aware, due diligence and permitting requirements will become increasingly strict as polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) are declared hazardous substances under CERCLA. There is likely to be a great deal of litigation over this. PFAS have already been added to other regulatory frameworks, such as the recent requirement for toxic release inventory reporting to include them as chemicals of special concern, removing the de minimis exemption formerly in place.
Successful industrial facilities I work with are proactive in their permitting and compliance efforts. They carve out ample time for due diligence and – if needed – remediation work before facility acquisitions and expansions. My advice is to know what you’re getting into and that front-end costs are nothing compared to fines or cleanup costs you might be subject to if you don’t get your ducks in a row. For example, the USEPA recently issued a sizeable fine related to a Clean Water Act violation for a scrap metal recycling facility in St. Louis alleged to have illegal discharges into the Mississippi River.
About the Author: Rachel McShane, LEP, has over 15 years of experience in environmental due diligence projects (Phase I, II and III Environmental Site Assessments) as well as Brownfields redevelopment, risk-based corrective action, and remediation projects. She is familiar with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental assessments, vapor investigations and mitigation, radon, asbestos, lead-based paint surveys, and leachate monitoring/solid waste management. Reach Ms. McShane at or via LinkedIn.