Intel reports air scrubber failures - down 4 times since Jan 1 : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Friday, March 10, 2000

Intel Reports Air-Scrubber Failures

By Carolyn Appelman Journal Staff Writer Air pollution control equipment at Intel's Rio Rancho computer chip plant has been down four times since Jan. 1, reports to the state show.

Production continued, and emissions of some chemicals used in the chip-making process were released into the air without going through a cleanup process, the reports say.

During one of the shutdowns, a little over a half a ton of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, were released without going through pollution control, the reports show.

None of the estimated emissions reported to the state violated Intel's air permit, Intel safety manager James Casciano said.

"We are very careful about being in compliance," Casciano said Thursday. "We document all down time, whether or not there were any emissions. We are trying to be a role model."

Estimated emissions are based on Intel's previous major polluter air permit. The state recently approved Intel for a minor polluter permit.

The state requires Intel to file an excess emissions form within 10 business days of the first day after the start of the equipment shutdown.

Emissions reported on the form are not from actual testing, but from a mathematical computation.

The plant's pollution cleanup process does not eliminate all of the chemical byproducts from the emissions.

"Even without abatement, chemical concentrations are very low," Casciano said. "For instance, the scrubbers inlets take in 4-to-10 parts-per-million, and the scrubbed air comes out at 1-to-2 parts-per-million. For reference, one capful of bleach to one gallon of water equals 50 parts-per-million."

Three of the four times the equipment was down was for preventative maintenance, Intel reported, but the other time a piece of equipment was clogged for 40 minutes.

Corrales resident Joy Tschawuschian claims that on 15 occasions since Jan. 1, chemical odors were present at her home directly down the hill from the plant. She says during those times, she experienced nausea, headaches, burning eyes, sore throats, muscular aches, confusion and cold chills.

Of the 15 dates that she recorded experiencing similar symptoms, one date matches a reported equipment shutdown, and two match within 12 hours of a shutdown.

From Feb. 14 to Feb. 18, the plant's Fab 11 thermal oxidizer was off-line for 106.4 hours for maintenance and to replace the unit's burner.

During that time, Intel reported estimated emissions of 0.6 tons of volatile organic compounds, chemicals that can combine with nitrogen dioxide to create ozone.

Tschawuschian's records show she felt ill Feb. 13 and Feb. 15.

There is no medical documentation that Intel's emissions caused her symptoms on the dates that matched. Tschawuschian said she did not go to the doctor on those occasions, but she did call poison control and was told to leave the premises but "not to expose 911 workers." She said she did not leave her home.

From Jan. 17 to Jan. 19, Intel's Fab 7 thermal oxidizer was taken off-line for quarterly maintenance. The oxidizer, which scrubs the air, was not running for 35.7 hours. Intel reported estimated emissions at 0.3 tons of volatile organic compounds released into the air.

Tschawuschian said she became ill at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 20.

The failure of recirculation pumps on Fab 9's acid gas scrubber on Jan. 22 for about 40 minutes because of a clogged line released estimated emissions of 0.0005 tons of hazardous air pollutants, or HAPs.

Tschawuschian's records show she was ill from Jan. 22 through Jan. 24.

Casciano said when the plant receives calls from Tschawuschian, an employee is sent to check out the complaint.

However, Tschawuschian said she often gets no response from Intel or is told there is no equipment failure at the time.

"I would think that Intel, being such good a neighbor, could notify us of these (maintenance shutdowns) so we could evacuate," she said.

Casciano said Intel's new permit requires more reporting and monitoring than other states require.

"We are permitted for 40 tons per year of VOCs and 20 tons per year of HAPs in Arizona," he said. "Our New Mexico permit is more stringent when it comes to reporting than our permit in Chandler."

The Chandler plant is roughly half of the size of the Rio Rancho facility, Casciano said.

Intel's new permit is for 96 tons of VOCs a year, and the company says it has been averaging 55 tons per year.

It requires the chipmaker to physically monitor its stacks for 336 hours per quarter.

Casciano said when the plant does the monitoring, someone from the Environment Department will be on-site to witness the testing.

-- - (, March 13, 2000

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