A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 May 10, 1990
THE EXPERIMENT CONTINUES: The Michigan Air Pollution Control Commission voted early today to let Detroit restart its incinerator. The 8-2 vote came after more than 14 hours of sometimes bitter testimony. City officials hope to start the new incinerator today, after they receive written permission from state and county health officials. The massive burner was closed two weeks ago by the commission because it failed to meet state standards for emission of mercury, a metal that accumulates in fish and in cows milk. People who consume fish and milk high in mercury can suffer neurological damage. Incinerator opponents stormed the stage while the vote was being taken, shouting killers and your grandchildren will die. Later, more reserved opponents vowed to continue their legal battle to permanently close the incinerator. Suffice to say that the people of Ontario are very concerned and disappointed, said Edward Piche, director of Air Resources for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment [Canada]. Well see you in court. The debate began about 10 a.m. and raged into the night, prompting some in the audience to send out for tacos while their friends lined up to take their turn at the podium. Some talked about rashes they believed were linked to incinerator emissions. One man challenged commissioners to sniff a jar of incinerator ash. The commissioners, seated on a stage, could only sip sodas and nod. Consultants for the incinerator insisted that its use will have no effect on human health. But people living near the giant trash burner said they would not breathe easily until it was permanently shut down. Detroit officials maintained Wednesday that no significant health risk was posed by the mercury and other pollutants that would waft from the incinerator. The facility does not now have, nor has it ever had, an adverse health effect on the people of Detroit, said Beth Gotthelf, an attorney representing the city. Her remarks drew hoots and jeers from 100 or so people gathered in the state fairgrounds community arts building. Some wore surgical masks over their noses and mouths and carried miniature coffins. The city bought in two expert consultants - one from California and the other from the University of Michigan - to bolster its position that the scrubbers and associated contraptions proposed for the incinerator would indeed guard against harmful fumes. The opponents countered with their own consultants who said the citys experts were paid to speak favorably. With respect to humans, we cannot seem to find cancer risk directly linked to dioxin, one of the gases emitted from the incinerator, said Dennis Paustenbach, a city-hired consultant from Alameda, Calif... Detroit Free Press, 5-3-90, page 1-B.
CONDITIONS FOR RESTARTING THE DETROIT INCINERATOR: During the hearing Detroits finance director, Bella Marshall, and chairwoman of the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority, which operates the incinerator, said the agreement for restarting provides the most stringent guidelines in the country for garbage burners...Marshall suggested that the city may attempt to burn garbage from other communities to raise money for new equipment. She said the city also may attempt to float a revenue bond issue for the new air pollution control equipment. City officials have estimated the equipment could cost up to $100 million. The vote Wednesday was based on an agreement worked out between city officials and the state Department of Natural Resources [DNR] last week in a series of closed-door meetings. The commission voted 6-4 two weeks ago to shut the incinerator because of repeated violations of the plants mercury emission standards. Under the new deal, the plant would be restarted, but with a 10-percent reduction in the amount its allowed to burn. The city also agreed to install new pollution controls, including devices known as scrubbers and, if necessary, equipment called baghouses. But critics charged the agreement actually required the city to do little immediately, because the incinerator rarely had burned garbage at its maximum capacity. They also attacked the commission for giving Detroit until 1992 to install the first scrubber and until 1997 for additional equipment. It is widely believed that incinerators will have to install scrubbers by the mid-1990's to meet federal standards... Supporting the plant reopening were Alan Greenberg, head of the Wayne County Air Pollution Control Division; David Hales, DNR director; Lee Jager, a state Health Department executive; Christine Lietzau, representing the state Agriculture Department; Jan Wilson, a local government representative; Jackie Savage and Nicholas Kachman, both representatives of the automobile industry; and Russel Gossman, a UAW official. Voting to keep the plant shut were Linda Berker and Kathryn Wurzel. Baker and Wurzel represented the general public. The Detroit News, 5-3-90, front page.
MERCURY. Craig Volland, President of Spectrum Technologists, has written a third in a series of papers addressing the inadequacies of the EPAs dry scrubber technology standard, which focuses on the problem of mercury capture, implications for the food chain, and continuing questions relating to the basic reliability of trash incineration technology. Some excerpts: ...Until recently most researchers believed that the species of mercury emitted from combustion sources was elemental mercury vapor. This view derived from earlier measurements from burning coal which has both a mercury and chlorine content an order of magnitude lower than municipal waste. However recent research has identified mercuric chloride as the dominant species emitted from trash incinerators. This finding is consistent with other recent research on hazardous waste incineration that has identified a relationship between chlorine content of the waste burned and the generation of highly volatile metal chlorides (which also tend to escape pollution control devices). In fact, increasing the use of PVC plastic (almost 50% chlorine) in food packaging would likely increase emissions of arsenic and hexavalent chromium from trash incinerators. The species of mercury formed in combustion is critical to the transport and fate of these vapors and aerosols. Elemental mercury vapor is relatively insoluble, and is dispersed over hundreds of miles before being oxidized and deposited. On the other hand, not only is mercuric chloride subject to dry deposition, but it is highly soluble and will wash-out in rainfall much closer to the emitting facility. The mercuric ion in solution is also much more easily taken up by the roots of plants. Thus in areas with high precipitation, such as Florida, we can expect a significant proportion of mercury emissions to remain in the vicinity of the incinerator and be incorporated into the local mercury cycle. It should be noted, however, that in conditions of acidic rain the oxidation and wash-out of elemental mercury will be enhanced...I want to thank the EPA for including the malfunction provision in the new NSPS [New Source Performance Standards]...and the incinerator industry for inserting a similar provision into Municipal Waste Combustion section of the Clean Air Act. This will save me much time in explaining to people that trash incinerators are complex and unreliable. The malfunction provision exempts operators from all emission standards for a period of up to three hours in the event of a malfunction or when the facility is started up or shut down. In addition, there is no explicit limit to the number of such incidents that can be claimed and we know these problems are frequent. It is exactly during periods of malfunction, start-up, and shut down that the maximum amount of toxins will be emitted. Ironically the industry did not need to protect itself in this manner. It is well known that state regulators routinely look the other way when emission excursions occur or else impose a small fine...A Critical Review of EPAs Plan to Establish a Dry Scrubber Technology Standard for Municipal Solid Waste Incineration - February 1990 Addendum and Update. This 13-page paper, with 42 references, is available for $5 from Spectrum Technologists, 616 E. 63rd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110.