Sunday, December 16, 2012

INCINERATOR plans really burn me up!

Frderick County has been looking into a large-scale incinerator for the past 4 or 5 years and has been moving forward with those plans despite the astronomical price tag and loss of a partnership deal with neighboring Carroll County. 

Plans include receiving trash from neighboring counties to be burned, concentrating the negative environmental effects of not just our own, but others' trash, here in Frederick County.

Here is a letter to the editor Will wrote in regards to our county's plans to build an incinerator in Frederick County:

Most of the candidates running for local office are focused on the economy and growth issues. With unemployment high, commercial space sitting empty, and a stagnant real estate market, that is understandable. But, the reality is Frederick county is caught up in a national, and to some extent, global recession. There is little local politicians can do to jump start the national economy. The only real “local” issue in the upcoming election is whether or not the next board of County Commissioners proceeds with the planned $600 million dollar municipal solid waste incinerator. The single largest debt ever imposed on the citizens of Frederick County.

It only seems logical to see how existing municipal waster incinerators are doing. After all, the past is the best prediction of the future. In the last few weeks alone, 3 incinerators have made headlines. Harrisburg, PA’s incinerator is about to go into receivership because the city can no longer pay for it; Hudson Falls, NY is trying to sell their incinerator; and most troubling, Spokane, WA’s incinerator violated air pollution limits for mercury in June. Why did it take until September for the violation to surface? Apparently, the permit for Spokane’s incinerator only requires continuous monitoring for three pollutants. Nine other pollutants, including mercury, are only tested for annually. Much like the proposed Frederick incinerator, the Spokane incinerator purports to have “state of the art” pollution controls. Officials think that there was something that was going through the system that was high in mercury. That is precisely the problem when permits only require an annual snapshot of emissions for the majority of pollutants of concern. More troubling is that the monitoring requirements in Spokane’s permit are typical for incinerators.

Proponents of incineration like to point out that incinerators are designed to meet EPA Clean Air Act Standards, known as maximum achievable control technology levels (MACT). MACT requires the maximum reduction of hazardous emissions, taking cost and feasibility into account. The MACT must not be less than the average emission level achieved by controls on the best performing 12 percent of existing sources, by industrial category. What this translates to, is “do as good as the best in your field are doing.” In other words, these are technology-based standards and not health-based standards. MACT levels represent what can be reasonably achieved versus what is safe for human health and the environment.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element and a potent neurotoxin. Mercury is hidden in compact fluorescent lamps (the coiled light bulbs everyone has been installing), light switches, thermostats, thermometers, irons, space heaters, security systems, and batteries (yes, even kids shoes that light up have mercury in them). Once released, the mercury travels through the air and is deposited back to earth through precipitation or dry deposition. The mercury is deposited directly into aquatic environments, and also deposited on land surfaces, where it can be transported into aquatic ecosystems through run-off and erosion. Much of this mercury deposition occurs within 50 miles of the smokestack from which it is released.

Maryland Department of Environment currently has a state-wide fish advisory for mercury recommending limits on the consumption of fish and shellfish due to mercury levels found in their tissues. We already have a problem with too much mercury in the environment in Maryland.

High variability is considered the norm in todays municipal waste stream. Disposable products are increasingly coming from oversees manufacturers that operate under less stringent regulation and oversight (cadmium in childrens jewelry anyone?). In addition, no matter how successful state recycling campaigns are, some batteries and compact florescent light bulbs will always make it into the waste stream. Is transferring a solid waste problem into an air pollution problem really the best solution?

William Morrow
Whitmore Farm
10720 Dern Road
Emmitsburg, MD 21727


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