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New EPA chemical, hazardous waste rules to affect collision repair shops

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon prohibit the processing and distribution of two chemicals found in many collision repair parts, chemicals, adhesives, and paints.

EPA issued a final rule in March 2022, which extended the compliance date to Oct. 31, 2024 for processing and distribution of phenol isopropylated phosphate (3:1), or PIP (3:1). Changes were made regarding the other chemical, decabromodiphenyl ether (DecaBDE), in January 2021.

The rules were meant to reduce exposure to five chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT), EPA said.

PBT chemicals are of particular concern, not only because they are toxic, but also because they remain in the environment for long periods of time and can build up or accumulate in the body, EPA said.

PIP (3:1) is a plasticizer, flame retardant, anti-wear additive, or anti-compressibility additive that has been used in hydraulic fluid, lubricating oils, lubricants and greases, industrial coatings, adhesives, sealants, plastic articles, and wiring.

DecaBDE has been used as a flame retardant for multiple applications in the automotive industry, including vehicle replacement parts (OEM and aftermarket), according to the EPA. It was voluntarily phased out by the motor vehicle industry beginning in 2012.

EPA has identified adverse human health effects associated with exposure to decaBDE and PIP (3:1). Both have been shown to cause damage to the development of or problems with reproductive systems. EPA said decaBDE also causes central nervous system development damage. PIP (3:1) causes damage to the liver, ovaries, heart, and lungs, EPA said.

EPA told Repairer Driven News that, according to comments received by EPA from automotive industry trade associations, decaBDE is believed to have been phased out of production in new U.S. vehicles as of 2021, but it may be present in cars manufactured before the phase-out and in replacement parts that are still in circulation.

Some of the motor vehicle components that may contain decaBDE are hoods, doors, headlamps, sensors, seats, engines, clutches, displays, circuit boards, casings, and cable insulation.

EPA prohibited the use of decaBDE, including in products or articles with a few exceptions.

Under the 2021 decaBDE final rule, replacement parts for motor vehicles could continue to be manufactured, processed, and distributed in commerce until 2036, or until the end of the service life of the vehicles in which they are currently installed, whichever is earlier, EPA said.

A rule proposed by EPA in November 2023 didn’t change the provision.

Some of the vehicle components that may contain PIP (3:1) are paints and coatings, body panels, air filters, fabrics and upholstery, hoses, motor gears, starters, sensors, wire and cable assemblies, circuit boards, and other electrical components.

PIP (3:1) is also used in electrical devices and commercial equipment. It may be used in power cords and wire and cable assemblies in power tools and other equipment used in the collision repair sector, such as sanders and grinders, EPA said. PIP (3:1) may also be present in equipment that houses electrical components, such as diagnostic tools and battery chargers.

In January 2021, EPA finalized a rule prohibiting the processing and distribution in commerce of PIP (3:1), but new and replacement parts for vehicles were excluded from the ban.

In November 2023, EPA proposed replacing the exclusion with a delayed prohibition. Under the phase-out, the manufacture, processing, and distribution of new vehicle parts that contain PIP (3:1) would be prohibited 15 years after the finalization of the rule. Replacement parts containing PIP (3:1) would be prohibited after an additional 15 years.

EPA proposed the change after considering comments from the industries that manufacture the parts, which indicated this was a reasonable timeframe, EPA said. EPA expects to publish a final rule this fall.

Earlier this month, the EPA also announced its latest efforts to modify the definition of hazardous waste permitted at auto dealers and repair shops to lessen environmental and health risks posed by certain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are widely used, long-lasting chemicals that break down very slowly over time, and have been used in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products, according to EPA.

EPA proposed two rules that would add to its approach to cut back on pollution from PFAS, built on President Joe Biden’s agenda to better protect public health and advance environmental justice, EPA said.

The rules will ensure EPA’s regulations reflect hazardous waste cleanup requirements from both EPA and state agencies and will add PFAS to the list of hazardous substances included in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), according to EPA.

The agency says the proposed rules would strengthen protections for communities and drinking water supplies located near the 1,740 permitted hazardous waste facilities across the nation.

Corrective action under RCRA requires facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste to protect health and the environment by investigating and cleaning up hazardous releases into soil, groundwater, surface water, and air.

The “Definition of Hazardous Waste Applicable to Corrective Action from Solid Waste Management Units” proposed rule will be open for public comment through March 11. The “Listing of Specific PFAS as Hazardous Constituents” proposed rule will be open for public comment through April 8.

At the state level, Tesla was recently ordered to pay $1.5 million in a case against it by 25 California district attorneys concerning hazardous waste disposal.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Ron Freitas, along with 24 other California DAs, alleged Tesla illegally disposed of hazardous waste at its car service centers, energy centers, and its factory in Fremont.

Tesla currently owns and operates 57 car service centers and 18 solar energy facilities in California and manufactures electric vehicles at its Fremont Factory in Alameda County.

Prosecutors allege Tesla violated California law establishing the proper control, storage, management, and disposal of hazardous waste.

“Electric vehicles play a role in environmental betterment, yet it’s imperative to recognize that their production and maintenance yield detrimental waste,” Freitas said in a news release.

The agreement with Tesla “underscores our commitment to environmental stewardship,” he added.

“Ensuring companies are responsible for the proper management and disposal of hazardous waste is essential in safeguarding our natural resources and upholding California’s robust environmental regulations,” Freitas said.

The investigation, initiated by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Environmental Division, began in 2018 when San Francisco DA investigators conducted undercover inspections of Tesla’s trash containers at its car service centers. They found numerous used hazardous automotive components including lubricating oils, brake cleaners, lead acid and other batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, waste solvents and other cleaners, electronic waste, waste paint, and contaminated debris.

DA investigators from Alameda, Monterey, Orange, Placer, Riverside, San Diego, and San Joaquin counties then conducted additional inspections at Tesla’s car service centers in their counties and found similar unlawful disposals.

Alameda County DA investigators also conducted waste inspections of trash containers at the Fremont Factory and found Tesla’s unlawful disposal of additional hazardous wastes, including metal car panel welding spatter waste, which can contain copper and waste paint mix cups produced during paint repair and wipes/debris contaminated with primer.

Tesla actively participated in the investigation, proactively taking steps to elevate its compliance with environmental protection laws, flagged by the prosecutors, according to the release.

Once informed, Tesla “promptly instituted a practice of quarantining and screening trash containers for hazardous waste at all service centers before disposal at the landfill,” the release states.

Tesla was ordered to pay $1.3 million in civil penalties and $200,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation. It’s also ordered to comply with an injunction for five years. Injunctive compliance measures include proper training of employees and the hiring of a third party to conduct annual waste audits of the trash containers at 10% of its facilities.


Featured image: Stock photo of work in a shop. (Credit: kadmy/iStock)

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