Environmental regulators say the allegation is based on smokestack-emissions testing performed in March.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown Thermal, the company that supplies steam heat and cooling to about 50 downtown buildings, is in hot water with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA has issued a notice of violation to the Youngstown company, alleging it violated federally enforceable Ohio clean air regulations in testing performed in March.
The company was one of eight in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois issued violation notices or findings.
Youngstown Thermal also failed to comply with planning, reporting, testing and operating requirements, the EPA alleges.
Paul Razo, general manager at the company's boiler plant on North Avenue, said he could not comment specifically because he had not seen the EPA complaint.
"We work closely with Ohio EPA, and we've spent considerable time and money to make sure that we stay compliant," Razo said. "We take this very seriously because it's our business, but I can't discuss it further until I know exactly what the complaint is about."
Nathan Frank, an EPA environmental engineer based in Chicago, said Ohio clean air rules limit particulate emissions from a steam supply plant to 0.14 lbs. per million British thermal units of heat produced. Tests performed at Youngstown Thermal's boiler plant on North Avenue showed emissions of 0.192 lbs. per million Btu, he said.
"We consider that fairly significant." Frank said.
A subsequent test in April showed improved results, he said, but the boilers were operating at a lower level at that time.
Particulate matter can include dust, smoke and ash.
Frank said EPA generally tests smokestack emissions every two to four years.
Tests are not done more frequently, he explained, because they are so costly.
The last time Youngstown Thermal was cited by the EPA for violating particulate limits was in 1989, he said.
Companies and organizations issued EPA findings or notices of violation have 30 days from receipt of the notices to meet with EPA officials to resolve the matter. EPA may issue compliance orders, assess administrative penalties or bring suit against the companies.
Youngstown Thermal's parent company is Thermal Ventures, also based in Youngstown, which owns a steam system in Akron and operates systems in Garden Grove, Calif., and Richmond, Va.