ASDWA Recommends Additional Time for Industry to Comply with Proposed Asbestos Rule

On July 13, ASDWA submitted comments to EPA in response to the proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) rule for conditions of use for chrysotile asbestos. EPA’s proposal would prohibit the manufacturing (including importing), processing, distribution in commerce, and the commercial use of chrysolite asbestos for chrysolite asbestos membranes in the chlor-alkali industry and several other commercial and consumer uses. The potential impacts of this prohibition on the water sector are significant for chlorine production and distribution. Chorine production plants would be required to switch from asbestos diaphragm cells to membrane cells.

ASDWA’s comments raised concerns that, according to the proposal, the Agency has “insufficient information to fully assess the impact of this proposed rule on the cost or availability of water treatment chemicals.” ASDWA recommended that EPA delay the publication of a final rule until this crucial data is collected. Additionally, ASDWA highlighted a concern that the Agency’s proposed two-year implementation timeline for the rule would be insufficient to ensure that there are no disruptions in chlorine supply. ASDWA noted that the processors and industrial users of chrysotile asbestos have stated that transitioning plants to asbestos-free technology could take 4-5 years and that there is currently no surplus of chlorine on the market. Therefore, removing one-third of the chlorine produced in the United States, as is estimated in this proposed rule, will have an immediate impact on supply. To alleviate this concern, ASDWA recommended that EPA select an alternative option provided in the proposal to allow the industry five years (instead of two) to ensure that this change will not impact the supply of chlorine that water systems rely on to keep drinking water safe.