Ferrous foundry industry needs to pay attention to air pollution

Control of air pollution has been singled out as being of particular concern in the ferrous foundry sector, but environmental efficiencies can lead to lower costs, according to the Environment Agency’s new interim guidance document on best available techniques, emissions and impact assessment for the industry.

The new guidance document is part of a series of new Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regulations originating from the 1996 European IPPC Directive, and which replaces the UK’s former Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) rules (see related story). The Environment Agency wishes to receive comments from interested parties on the notes, which cover the production, melting or refining of iron, steel and any ferrous alloys in England and Wales, where pig iron or steel foundries have a capacity of more than 2.5 tonnes per hour, and ferrous foundries have an output of more than 20 tonnes per day. Operations within foundries that are regulated include the storage and handling of raw materials, desulphurisation of molten iron, preparation of moulds and cores, casting and pouring, sand reclamation, and waste handling and recycling facilities.

The key environmental issue for the sector is air pollution in a variety of forms, including nitrogen, carbon and iron oxides, heavy metals, ammonia, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), dioxins, and fugitive dust. This pollution arises from processes such as unloading, transport, storage and reclamation of stocks, from substances such as desulphurisation materials including lime, and limestone, but also from casting, finishing and sand reclamation. Transfer and storage facilities for handling materials must be designed in order to minimise that risk and consequences of spillage, with both air and groundwater contamination being avoided, says the Environment Agency.

There is also need for sustainable water management within the industry, with the key issues needing to be addressed including consumption levels, monitoring of individual pollutants, management of surface water run-off, the security of underground drains, pollution prevention systems and contingency arrangements.

Attention also needs to be paid to energy conservation in an industry that is a major energy consumer, and which has considerable scope for reduction of emissions caused by energy use and choice of energy source, says the Environment Agency. A strategy for the minimisation, recovery and recycling of materials is required from companies, all potential sources of significant noise pollution need to be identified and managed, and site restoration also needs special consideration in the light of slag sites, sediments in lagoons, and heavy metals and alkaline materials.

The activities of companies that were regulated under the old IPC or Waste Management Licensing regulations should expect to have a review of their new IPPC permits after six years, and those that were not previously regulated are likely to be reviewed after four years, and thereafter, every six years. However, operations discharging certain substances, or tipping for disposal will be reviewed at least every four years.

With regards to the financial expense to companies of implementing the new IPPC regulations, the guidance notes emphasise that the cost of controlling releases should not be disproportionate to the environmental benefits that they deliver, but companies may find that they receive cost savings resulting from improved environmental performance. One area where significant financial benefits can be obtained is in sand recovery, where a primary reclamation system handling 5520 tonnes of sand per year achieves a net cost saving of £147,108 per year, and a thermal reclamation system with a throughput of one tonne per hour can save £92,581 per year.

Responses to the consultation on the guidance notes should be sent by 7 September to: Graham Winter, Technical Guidance Section, Environmental Portiection National Service, Environment Agency, Block 1, Government Buildings, Burghill Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, BS10 6BF, telephone 0117 914 2868; or by email to: [email protected]. The final guidance will be issued at the beginning of October, but applications for permits under the foundry regulations should be made by the end of August this year.

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