SoRec joins bid to revise PCB disposal permit

NEW YORK — Southern Recycling LLC (SoRec) has joined a number of environmental groups in their efforts toward the revision of a general permit that regulates the sinking of U.S. Navy vessels, citing differences in procedures outlined for the removal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the ships prior to sinking.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked for public comment on two petitions requesting the amendment of a permit under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), which regulates the transportation and dumping of materials into ocean waters.

The permit relates to the removal of PCBs from ships used in the Navy’s SinkEx program, which uses obsolete vessels for target practice by military personnel for training and testing purposes, and leads to the consequent sinking of the vessels. Vessels used for SinkEx are prepared according to the terms of the MPRSA general permit issued to the Navy.

Environmental groups Sierra Club and Basel Action Network asked the EPA to amend the MPRSA general permit to require SinkEx to comply with the MPRSA, which regulates the disposal of PCBs into ocean waters, according to a June 2011 petition.

The groups asked that the permit be amended to require materials containing PCBs to be removed from ships to the "maximum extent practicable with the best current techniques" prior to sinking.

In a second petition, dated April 2012, both environmental groups and the Center for Biological Diversity again requested that the EPA amend the permit. The groups proposed that all PCB-contaminated materials in concentrations of 50 parts per million (ppm) and above be removed from vessels prior to sinking, while concentrations below 50 ppm be removed from vessels prior to sinking to the "maximum extent practicable."

New Orleans-based recycler SoRec, a wholly owned subsidiary of England-based Eastern Metal Recycling LLC (EMR), filed its letter in support of the petitions on May 6, the deadline for comment.

In SoRec’s letter, Polly Parks of the recycler’s Washington, D.C., office said the company is the highest-volume marine ferrous producer in the country, dismantling all marine ferrous material in adherence with the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA’s) PCB provisions and a slate of other federal, state and local environmental and occupational safety laws.

"We cannot fathom why the Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on the pollution of international and territorial waters when there is a viable domestic industry that can remediate and dismantle the U.S. Navy vessels to U.S. environmental and safety standards—a domestic industry that supplies a critical raw material to the nation’s steel production industry that recycles the metal back into the nation’s infrastructure, national security apparatus and export markets," she wrote.

Parks said the company has reviewed Navy reports to the EPA from 2000 to 2010 and found that the Navy used a variety of contractors, "none of whom apparently followed the November 30, 1995, EPA draft guidance ‘Sampling Ships for PCBs Regulated for Disposal (1995 Draft Guidance),’ or any other approved TSCA sampling regime to determine the presence of solid or liquid PCBs under 50 ppm."

Parks said the EPA did not publish annual reports submitted by the Navy and refused a request during the public comment period to post the reports on the docket.

"Instead, the EPA allowed the U.S. Navy to sink over 90 U.S. Navy vessels during the first decade of the 21st century without adequate remediation" of PCBs, Parks said.

"As neither the EPA nor the U.S. Navy sought out domestic metal recycling industry input into its methodology and practice on preparing U.S. Navy vessels for the SinkEx exercises, we have no recourse but to support the petition by the Basel Action Network, the Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity to revise the SinkEx general permit," she said.

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