Penn State’s Visual Emissions Training Program helps businesses meet pollution regulation standards set by the state in an effort to determine whether these emissions are harmful to the environment.
On Oct. 15, about 20 local businesses participated in the training program at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, Penn State Professor of Mechanical Engineering John Cimbala said.
Brandon Vesley (junior-public relations and Spanish) said the program is for someone in an industry in Pennsylvania to participate in a course such as this because it’s important to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations . The regulations include Title V, which forces states to submit operating permit programs for EPA approval, according the Air Quality Management District website.
Not all businesses need this type of certification for employees, however. In fact, only companies with large heat generation are required to have this, Wayne Pauley , a principal research engineer at LeMont Nittany Corporation , said.
Pauley said places like restaurants, commercial apartment buildings or large department stores can sometimes fall below the emissions required to have trained employees. The places that would need an operating permit and employ smoke readers usually includes larger manufacturing plants, power plants and institutions with central steam plants.
“Other large operations in the State College area that have smoke readers include quarries and lime kilns,” Pauley said.
For this training program, there is a classroom portion and then an outdoor field test, where participants are graded on their ability to read the plumes coming from the “smoke truck.”
Cimbala said he has taught the classroom portion of the program for the last 15 years. He said it’s important for the air quality of the environment for companies to stay in accordance with these laws.
“It’s a government rule. The state requires people to be able to read smoke emissions by eye,” Cimbala said. “The main reason is so you can tell if something is wrong with your process. The ultimate goal is to improve air quality by reducing pollution.”
In the classroom, Cimbala said he discusses the theory behind reading smoke emissions and why it’s beneficial they check emissions. He said he also prepares participants for the field test portion of the program.
After the classroom discussion, attendees move to the outdoor field test, where they are given a test sheet and must watch the emissions made by the Smoke School truck — a vehicle with a smokestack attached to it that emits both white and black smoke.
Pauley said the white smoke is produced by heating diesel fuel to a high temperature so it appears through the smokestack as a cloud of small diesel droplets. As for the black smoke, Pauley said it represents harmful emissions.
“The black smoke is produced by purposely burning Toluene in a very inefficient manner in order to get a very visible black plume,” Pauley said. “Some of the plumes... if they were coming from an industrial plant, would be a violation of the allowable opacity limits.”
According to its website, Penn State’s Visible Emissions Training Program offers both certification and re-certification to the public. The Environmental Protection Agency requires businesses to have their smoke readers re-certified every six months, according to the website.
“The license expires after six months because you need to retrain your eye to the emissions,” Cimbala said.
Amy Walker can be reached at (814) 865-1828.