The “Clean Air Conservation Act,” enacted in 1990, designates gaseous or granular materials that cause air pollution as “air pollutants” and requires them to be managed through monitoring and emission controls. There are 61 designated air pollutants, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, nitrates, and sulfates. Among these, substances that may be directly or indirectly harmful to human health or animal and plant growth and development in the event of long-term consumption or exposure, even at low concentrations, are designated and managed as “specified air pollutants.” There are 35 types of specified air pollutants, including dioxins, benzene, chromium, and cadmium.
As of 2013, Korea has at least 48,000 air pollutant-emitting facilities, which are managed by the following key measures.
The first is a permit and reporting system regarding the installation and modification of emission facilities. Any facility that emits specified air pollutants or is installed in an air conservation special countermeasure area must obtain a permit, and other facilities must be reported.
The second is the progressive tightening of, and an advance notice system on, permissible emission levels. Permissible emission levels have been specified for 26 substances; they are being progressively tightened after accounting for the development rate of industrial technologies and reduction ability and advance notices are given to allow establishments to prepare ahead of time. The advance notice system began with an announcement in 1991 regarding tightened permissible emission levels applicable from 1995. Since then permissible emission levels have been progressively tightened in 1999, 2005, and 2010. The tightened permissible emission levels applicable from January 1, 2015 were announced on December 31, 2012.
Third, emission facilities are particularly strictly managed in heavily polluted regions. Even stricter permissible emission levels can be applied to industrial complexes and other areas of severe air pollution that have been designated as “air conservation special countermeasure areas.” Such strict permissible emission levels are currently applicable to the Ulsan-Onsan Industrial Complex and Yeosu Industrial Complex. Moreover, permissible emission levels may be tightened by a municipal ordinance in designated “air quality control areas” and other regions where it is difficult to meet national or regional air quality standards.
Fourth, emission facilities are provided with continuous guidance and inspections to ensure the appropriate operation of emission facilities and prevention facilities. Failure to operate prevention facilities without legitimate circumstances or installation of bypass ducts to discharge pollutants without passing through a prevention facility is subject to prosecution and administrative disposition, such as suspension of operation.
Fifth, emission of pollutants in excess of permissible emission levels is addressed by an improvement mandate and emission charges. There are two types of emission charges: the “basic charge” is imposed according to the quantity and concentration of pollutants emitted within permissible emission levels, and the “excess charge” is imposed on emissions in excess of permissible emission levels. The basic charge is currently imposed on sulfur oxides and dust, and the excess charge is imposed on nine types of pollutants, including sulfur oxides, ammonia, and dusts. Nitrogen oxides are not subject to the basic charge, but its inclusion is under review.
The SmokeStack Tele-Monitoring System (TMS) constantly measures air pollutants emitted by major industrial emitters through remote automatic sensing equipment. Automatic sensors installed in smokestacks continuously measure seven types of air pollutants (dust, SO2, NOx, NH3, HCl, HF, and CO) to produce data every 5 minutes and 30 minutes. The SmokeStack TMS was first installed in the special countermeasure area of the Ulsan-Onsan Industrial Complex, and as of the end of July 2014, it has been installed in 1,477 smokestacks of 569 major industrial emitters (Classes 1 to 3) nationwide. Construction of control centers to collect measurements began in 1998, and a total of four control centers have been completed in each region. The transmitted data is also used as administrative materials for emission charges and administrative dispositions.
Based on its stable operation over the years, the SmokeStack TMS has been the foundation of the Seoul Metropolitan Air Pollutant Emission-cap Management System from 2007. It is also expected to play a fundamental role in the emissions trading scheme to be introduced in the future.
Article 43 of the Clean Air Conservation Act requires establishments that produce fugitive dusts, or dust emitted directly into the air without a specific outlet, to be reported to the local government. As of the end of 2013, a total of 37,131 fugitive dust-producing establishments have been reported, and 82.4% of these were construction businesses. Compared to other air pollutants, fugitive dusts are more noticeable by the public and give rise to many civil complaints. Accordingly, efforts are being made to reduce fugitive dusts in an effective manner through continuous guidance, inspections, and education.
Fugitive dust-producing establishments are required to install dust control facilities or take the necessary action to inhibit fugitive dust production, and any violation is subject to implementation mandates, fines, prosecution, and other administrative dispositions. Special inspections are carried out on fugitive dust-producing establishments throughout the country each year in spring when fugitive dusts become common due to active construction work and dry weather. In 2013, local governments carried out special inspections on a total of 12,589 establishments, identified 868 violating businesses, and took administrative action, including prosecution, fines, and improvement mandates. Any construction business that is fined due to failure to address fugitive dusts is penalized in bidding eligibility evaluations for government-funded construction projects to ensure strict fugitive dust management.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) generally refer to hydrocarbons emitted in gas form into the air at ordinary temperatures and pressure, but there is yet to be an internationally agreed-upon definition or scope of target substances. Since 2009, Korea has designated 37 VOCs, including acetaldehyde, benzene, and gasoline, and facilities that emit these substances are managed under regulations. In addition to managing emission facilities, regarding VOC content limits in paint, “organic compounds (excluding carbonic acid and carbonates, etc.) having a minimum boiling point below 250°C at 1 atm” are subject to controls.
VOCs are emitted by a variety of sources, but the largest proportion comes from the use of organic solvents at 63.7% of total emissions, followed by production processes at 15.8%. VOC content limits have been established for paint to reduce emissions from the use of organic solvents. The limits applied only to the Seoul Metropolitan region during the early stages of introduction but they were extended to the rest of the country in 2013.
Gas stations emit VOCs such as gasoline vapors, and they were in high need of management as they are often located close to residential areas. To address this matter, prevention facilities were installed in gas stations situated in air conservation special countermeasure areas and air quality control areas. Installation was completed for Stage I (from manufacturing facilities to gas station storage facilities) by 2004 and for Stage II (from gas station storage facilities to filling vehicle fuel tanks) from 2007 to 2012.
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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38
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