Challenges (and Costs) of Reporting Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) - Banner

Challenges (and Costs) of Reporting Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs)

Reporting Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) has become increasingly important around the world, where multiple international initiatives are committed to safeguarding public health. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employs air toxic data to create statewide inventories of harmful emissions, conduct regular inspections, and determine compliance issues. Institutions, corporations, and governmental agencies at all levels must follow the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) to prove continuous compliance.

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), or airborne contaminants, are well-known chemicals that can induce cancer, as well as other major health issues such as birth defects or reproductive problems. To reduce emissions, EPA established a national monitoring strategy through The Clean Air Act (CAA) to regulate toxic air pollutants, and mitigate exposure to health-damaging hazards coming from large industrial organizations in two stages: [1]
  • Phase 1 - During the first phase, the EPA creates standards for regulating the emissions of air toxics from sources in an industry group (or "source category"), which is a technology-based approach. These maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards are based on achieved emissions levels by the industry's controlled and low-emitting sources. Phase I took place during different periods by industry (e.g. it went into effect in 1995 for power plants to reduce SO2). However, as a rule, phase 1 started in 1990 for the industries covered by the technology-based standards.
  • Phase 2 - During the second phase, the EPA establishes a "risk-based" strategy. They decide whether a new health-protective standard is required or not. Therefore, the CAA requires EPA to evaluate the residual health risks from each source category within eight (8) years of the MACT standards' establishment, to determine whether the MACT limits adequately protect public health and mitigate harmful environmental consequences. 
  • Note: Since 1990, EPA has been issuing restrictions to regulate air toxic emissions from more than 174 types of large industries, such as chemical facilities, oil refineries, pharmaceutical companies, aerospace producers, and steel mills.


How Does EPA Monitor Compliance?

One of the main tools The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employs to guarantee that regulated populations comply with environmental laws is compliance monitoring. It includes any regulatory agency actions taken to check if a facility (or collection of facilities, such as locations connected geographically, by industry, or by corporate structure) follows the policy in question. Compliance monitoring includes:
  • Developing compliance monitoring strategies and putting them into action
  • Compliance inspections, evaluations, and investigations conducted on-site (including review of permits, data, and other documentation)
  • Data gathering, reviewing, reporting, program coordination, supervision, and support for off-site compliance monitoring
  • Inspection training sessions, certification, and assistance
For facilities to detect and report problems to the Agency, EPA offers auditing and compliance incentives. Infractions may also be found through the Environmental Violation Reports that the Agency receives from the general public. Any of these activities that uncover violations may result in civil or criminal enforcement [2].


What is the inspection about?

The EPA's compliance monitoring procedures are not complete without inspections. They are a crucial instrument to formally determine if environmental standards and regulations are being followed. The bulk of legislative and regulatory program authorities are used by EPA and its regulatory partners to perform compliance inspections.

Inspections are visits to a building or location (such as a landfill, business, or educational institution) to gather data to ascertain if it is compliant. The inspection process also includes pre-inspection tasks like gathering broad site details before visiting a facility or site. The in-person inspection commonly entails the following:
  • Interviewing site or facility representatives
  • Examining documents and reports
  • Taking pictures of suspected violations
  • Gathering evidence samples
  • Monitoring site or facility operations

Inspections are typically carried out for single-media programs, like the Clean Water Act, but they can also be carried out for multiple media programs. A walk-through examination with little physical sample collection can be conducted in less than a half-day, whereas an inspection with extensive physical sample collection can take several weeks to complete. At the same time, inspections can be carried out to address issues:
  • Environmental (the quality of the water in a river)
  • Industrial (chemical plant substances)
  • Ecosystem-based approach (air or watershed)


The Clean Air Act Evaluation

There are two types of Clean Air Act evaluations: Full Compliance Evaluations (FCE) and Partial Compliance Evaluations (PCE). An FCE is a thorough assessment of the facility's compliance status; it examines the presence of all regulated pollutants at all regulated emission units, the condition of each unit's compliance, and the facility's ability to continue maintaining compliance at each emission unit. An FCE consists of:
  • A review of all necessary reports and the supporting documentation
  • An evaluation of air pollution control equipment and its settings
  • The examination of facility records, visible emissions, and operating logs
  • An evaluation of process variables, including feed rates, raw material compositions, and process rates.

A succession of Partial Compliance Evaluations could be used to complete an FCE.

A PCE is a compliance assessment of a certain facility's subset of regulated pollutants, legal requirements, or emission units. A PCE needs to be more thorough than a quick scan of each report. It may be carried out just to assess a certain component of a facility or it may include numerous assessments which in aggregate meet the annual needs of an FCE.

When an inspection or record review raises the possibility of substantial, pervasive, and/or ongoing civil or criminal infraction, Civil Investigations may be necessary. The process could take several weeks to finish, written information requests may be warranted, and the assessments are highly detailed in case of:
  • Persistent patterns of citizen complaints
  • Negative reviews from another regulatory agency
  • Governmental research implying a possible compliance issue


How Can We Avoid Civil Penalties?

The latest EPA Audit Policy, formally known as "Incentives for Self-Policing: Discovery, Disclosure, Correction, and Prevention of Violations," aims to protect public health and the environment by offering regulated businesses multiple incentives to self-report. For these organizations to benefit from the incentives, environmental infractions must be voluntarily discovered, quickly disclosed to EPA, swiftly corrected, and avoided in the future [3].

Civil penalties under environmental laws often consist of two parts: (1) a level determined by the "gravity" of the infraction; and (2) a level determined to recoup the financial gain an offender received from failing compliance. There are nine (9) standard requirements that must be satisfied to get a significant penalty reduction:

Penalty Mitigation Conditions

Systematic discovery of the infraction 

While through an environmental audit or setting up a compliance management system

Voluntary discovery of the infraction 

When not detected as a result of a legally required monitoring, sampling, or auditing procedure

Prompt disclosure 

When writing to EPA, within 21 days of finding the violation, any worker has a factually reasonable basis to believe that it has or would have occurred

Independent discovery and disclosure 

Before EPA or another agency would have discovered the infraction through their investigation

Correction and remediation 

Within 60 calendar days, starting from the discovery date

Prevent recurrence 

Of further violations alike

Repeat violations are ineligible 

When similar infractions have occurred within the past 3 years in the same facility, or within 5 years in related businesses

Certain types of violations are ineligible 

When the violation resulted in serious actual harm, presented an imminent hazard, or breached specific judicial terms


Required for the disclosing entity

Note: If all nine of the requirements of the Policy are satisfied, 100% of gravity-based penalties will be reduced. An entity may still be qualified for 75% penalty mitigation and a recommendation for no criminal prosecution of the offenses even if it fails to satisfy the systematic discovery.

Table 2. Conditions for Civil Penalty Mitigation


Recently, EPA has made it easier for regulated organizations to receive and automatically handle self-disclosed civil infractions of environmental policies, through the eDisclosure platform [4]. Now, both large and small firms will be able to successfully deal with some of their more common forms of disclosures thanks to the agency’s electronic reporting site. The three (3) steps in the process are:

  1. Register in EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX)
  2. Submit a Voluntary Disclosure (within 21 calendar days after infraction discovery)
  3. Certify Compliance (within 60 calendar days of filing an audit policy disclosure)


Hazardous Air Pollutants Case Study

The New York/New Jersey Harbor Deepening Project included marine engine upgrades that complied with the Clean Air Act while providing long-lasting benefits for the community. As Walter Mugdan, EPA Acting Regional Administrator, stated: “This case study demonstrates how stakeholders, state, and federal agencies can work together to develop and implement strategies to lessen hazardous emission at these important ports.”

According to the Clean Air Act's Federal General Conformity clause, federal agencies must make sure that their operations do not obstruct state efforts to fulfill the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, in places that fail to meet them. The sponsored company is required to offset all air emissions from a newly financed federal project when it exceeds an annual air emissions threshold.

In the Harbor Deepening Project, satisfying the Federal General Conformity liabilities was never a straightforward process. The construction work schedule and the emissions associated with the course of the project were both ambiguous elements at the start of the project. In the end, there were more than twenty (20+) different dredging contracts throughout the project's various phases [5].

Some types of offset projects within the facility included engine repowering, equipment electrification, and vehicle replacement. These activities were effective options to launch emission reduction operations, yet the expenses, risks, and technical viability were uncertain. At the peak of the construction process, the emissions went up to 1,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) per year, which was twice as planned.

To coordinate efforts between the Environmental Protection Agency and federal & state partners, the entities constituted the Regional Air Team (RAT).

General Compliance Requirements

  • Create a procedure for the final choices to be approved and signed, guaranteeing that the General Conformity standards would be satisfied before construction began, while the design process advanced and the start date could stay the same.
  • Indicate the federal action's potential impact on hazardous air emissions.
  • Determine hazardous air emissions reduction strategies and technics.
  • Establish tracking and record-keeping methods to maintain tabs on emissions and reductions throughout the project's lifespan to assure compliance.
  • Develop a feasible mitigation strategy to bring the project into compliance with the Clean Air Act.

The RAT established a tracking and reporting system to ensure enough offsets for the project each year. Following the first period of construction, the RAT recognized that the initial plan needed a significant adjustment – to set up the most cost-effective option for reducing NOx. Eventually, the Port Authorities were able to upgrade and replace old marine engines to meet the cleanest standard available.

Results & Conclusion

Ensuring compliance with General Conformity Requirements is never an easy feat for large, complex enterprises such as the harbor deepening project. Any imprecision regarding the federal rule’s compliance could leave the project open to lawsuits, which in the worst-case scenario would lead to a total project shutdown. Fortunately, the measures produced an excess of emission reduction during the upcoming years.

The Harbor Deepening Project's inventions went much beyond legal requirements. The initiative had significant and long-lasting benefits for air quality. The project's partners not only offset the 5,000 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions, but they also eliminated an additional 2,000 tons. Moreover, the repowered marine engines will continue to benefit the boats for their whole lives, even after the conclusion of the project.

Activities such as keeping written records of the meetings, tracking NOx emissions, coordinating multiple agencies, and following decision documentsaided in updating new staff on the project's history and current progress. Although the Deepening Project is already finished, the Regional Air Team (RAT) stays operational, and it continues tracking the offsets of other business ventures to meet the General Conformity Requirements.


Avoid The Hidden Costs of Using HAPs

Even with the positives associated with self-policing, there are substantial hidden costs for using HAPs.  Even with perfect compliance, it still takes time to undergo inspections and to provide inspectors with access and data on your facility.  Not to mention the fines and risks to your budget and timelines if there are compliance issues.  It would be far easier to not have to use HAPs at all.  It is not always possible to do so, however as technology specifically keyed to clean technology evolves, it’s become far easier (and cheaper) to implement chemical products and the equipment that uses them.

N-propyl bromide (nPB or 1-bromopropane), trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (perc or tetrachloroethylene), and methylene chloride are all commonly used in industrial settings because they are nonflammable, strong cleaners, and have low purchase costs. But the EPA has added each of these solvents to the HAPs list because of toxicity concerns.

For example, the EPA has publicly stated that it considers nPB to be an unreasonable risk for all types of degreasing including:

  • Industrial and consumer use for cleaning and degreasing
  • Vapor degreasers – open-top and inline
  • Cold cleaners
  • Aerosol spray degreaser/cleaner
  • Automotive degreasers -- i.e. for engines, brakes

However, no matter the legal standing of a particular chemical, the onus is on the organizations using solvents to select the products carefully, report usage as required by law, and equip their users to safely handle them.

The time is right to evaluate alternatives, and fortunately Techspray offers substitutes without major trade-offs.  Even if initial costs are higher, the true operating costs of using non-HAP cleaners will likely be far less than HAP cleaners, and with increased safety benefits for your employees.

Techspray is committed to providing engineering solutions with the benefits of nPB, TCE, perc, and methylene chloride but without the health hazards.

One product, PWR-4™ Industrial Maintenance Cleaner, is ideal where a safer, nonflammable, and cost-effective cleaner is required. This innovative solvent is much safer than the four most common industrial solvents (nPB, TCE, Perc and methylene chloride) and quickly cleans the most difficult greases and oils from electronics, relays, and motors. It is also engineered to remain stable and effective over thousands of cycles in vapor degreasing equipment.

For more information, contact your Techspray application specialist at 678-819-1408 or



[1] Environmental Protection Agency (2020) Controlling Hazardous Air Pollutants, Hazardous Air Pollutants. Environmental Protection Agency. Available at: (Accessed: October 1, 2022).

[2] Environmental Protection Agency (2022) How We Monitor Compliance, EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. Available at: (Accessed: October 10, 2022).

[3] Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). EPA's Audit Policy. EPA. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from (Accessed: October 10, 2022)

[4] Environmental Protection Agency (2022). Central Data Exchange. EPA. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from (Accessed: October 10, 2022)

[5] Environmental Protection Agency (2022). New York-New Jersey Harbor Deepening Project Combines Infrastructure Improvements and Air Quality Benefits. EPA. Retrieved October 13, 2022, from (Accessed: October 10, 2022)


Stay up-to-date on Techspray news, products, videos & more.

Related Categories
Degreasers Icon Degreasers Electrical Contact Cleaner Icon Electrical Contact Cleaner Electrical Cleaning Icon Electrical Cleaning Plant Maintenance Icon Plant Maintenance Ultrasonic Cleaning Icon Ultrasonic Cleaning Vapor Degreasing Icon Vapor Degreasing
Previous Article
You did not finish submitting your information to request a sample