WEVTU has obtained an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) report dated Sept. 24, 1999, that its I/M-240 emissions test contractor, Envirotest, was fined $843,240 for 35,173 violations during the first six months of 1999 in the Chicago area and part of Illinois close to St. Louis.

The Envirotest-run I/M-240 program in Illinois is the largest of its kind in the U.S. The contractor has had many years of experience with I/M-240 testing, some of which has been discontinued or is subject to cancellation in other states.

At press time, WEVTU was unable to reach IEPA for details about the violations. Possibly most troubling are the 3,887 “unauthorized lane operators,” which is believed to refer to inadequately trained test drivers.

Accompanying the above information on test contractor violations, IEPA advised that the testing contractor, Envirotest, “is currently a defendant in litigation concerning damage to vehicles allegedly resulting from vehicle testing” and that “Envirotest is attempting to ‘justify’ its request for protection against release of all damage information it has submitted to IEPA.”

An August 11, 1999, newspaper report says that during the February to July six months of I/M-240 testing in Illinois, 859 damage claims had been filed by motorists; 555 were declined (based on the contractor's evaluation of the merits of claims) and 74 were pending, while 212 had been paid.

Two of the motorists whose damage claims were denied are plaintiffs in the litigation referred to above. Lawyers for the two are seeking class-action status for the litigation and will need the information the contractor seeks to keep secret. A court ruling on the issue of class action and discovery are expected soon.

The two plaintiffs each had costs exceeding $800 for damage allegedly due to testing; one for a transmission and the other for engine damage Envirotest said was due to “pre-existing” conditions.

The U.S. EPA announced proposed new rules on Aug. 20 (Fed. Reg. Vol. 64, no. 161) about which the agency says, “the intention of this proposal is to take the focus off ‘I/M for the sake of I/M’ and return it to where it belongs — on cleaning the air by whatever method makes the most sense.”

Although many states have or are developing plans to cut back or cut out I/M testing programs, IEPA has so far remained committed to IM-240 dynamometer testing, even though there is no requirement to control vehicle oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions in the Chicago area. NOx emissions from vehicles is the only pollutant for which dyno (loaded mode) testing is essential.

Number of Assessments

Idle testing I/M-240 vehicles 8,528
Underpowered vehicles 6,253
Unauthorized lane operators 3,887
Improper calibration of instruments (not reported)
Late or missing compliance records 5,789
Loss or corruption of data 7,650
Wait time exceedances 104*
Improper log in 2,962
Total 35,173
*at various stations.
Source: Illinois EPA report, September 24, 1999.