A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 December 27, 1990
According to a 3-day Chicago Sun-Times series on the Robbins incinerator (Sept. 30, Oct. 1 & 2, 1990) Robbins, a suburb south of Chicago, with a population of 7,241, ranks second-to-last among 262 northeast Illinois towns in per capita income ($7,001). Robbins is about $6 million in debt and collects only $250,000 a year in property taxes. Permits to build the 1,200 tpd incinerator have been issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, even though no health risk assessment was required or performed. Annual incinerator pollutants include: 886 tons of nitrogen oxides, 270 tons of carbon monoxide, 187 tons of sulfur dioxide, 53 tons of tiny particles, 2.2 tons of Mercury, and 1,000 tons of lead.
On December 26, 1990, the medical community at
St. Francis Hospital & Health Center announced its
opposition to the operation of the incinerator based
on medical and health-related concerns impacting
residents in the surrounding suburban area.
St. Francis Hospital is located in Blue Island, approx 1 1/2 miles southwest of the proposed incinerator site, has approx 250 doctors on staff and 1,600 employees, and is licensed for 412 beds. St. Francis Hospital & Health Center specializes in cardiology and womens care and is a member of the SSM (Sisters of St. Mary) Health Care System, one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the country. The following are excerpts from the 5-page press release issued by the hospital on 12-26-90. (For more information, or for a copy of the press release, contact either Linda Gannon or Janice Youngwith, St. Francis Hospital & Health Center, 12935 South Gregory St, Blue Island, IL 60406. Tel: 708-597-2000, ext. 5601.)
The approved siting of a proposed municipal solid waste incinerator in south suburban Robbins has ignited the concern of the medical community at St. Francis Hospital & Health Center, Blue Island. Despite air, land and water approvals issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), health officials at St. Francis have taken a stance to oppose the operation of the incinerator based on medical and health-related concerns impacting residents in the surrounding suburban area. Our concern is for the health and well-being of our patients, staff members, families and neighbors who will be effected by emissions from the incinerator, notes Michael E. Garrigan, FACHE, president, St. Francis Hospital and Health Center. Due to current lack of research showing both before and after effects of municipal solid waste combustion, difficulties in accurate emissions measurement and potential health risks due to toxic chemicals, we see the threat to community health as enormous...despite special spray dryer absorbers, fabric filters and scrubbers, there is no doubt that toxic emissions including heavy metals and particulate matter will be released into the community, notes Prakash Vaishnav, M.D., medical director of Respiratory Care Services at St. Francis. In addition to obvious potential respiratory problems, these heavy metals and other emissions generated through gaseous waste, fly ash and quench water, harbor concentrated levels of toxins cited by medical experts as potential carcinogens and hazardous to health. Incineration typically produces a multitude of dioxins and furans which are very toxic, Vaishnav continued...In addition, particulates produced by the incinerator are expected to significantly increase respiratory allergies, and are expected to be a major source of chronic respiratory problems in children. Respiration of fine particulates can cause broncho constriction which is enhanced by irritants attached to the particulates, Vaishnav adds. Deaths from lung disease increase with exposure to sulfates in the air... Dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known, states Nathan Averick, M.D., chief of Pathology at St. Francis. Furans, close cousins to dioxins, have similar toxic effects. And once released into the environment, these polychlorinated dioxins and furans have the ability to persist for years selectively concentrating on the tissues of living creatures...fish, animals and humans. The accumulation of dioxins and furans in the flesh and breast milk of humans now is a matter of global concern. These highly toxic chemicals have frequently been linked to a variety of medical problems including higher cancer rates, miscarriage and birth defects...Another concern being weighed by hospital officials is the fact that prevailing winds will place St. Francis directly in the path of incinerator emissions and may greatly affect air quality within the hospital itself, notes St. Francis Michael Garrigan. Asthmatics and other patients experiencing respiratory disorders will be among our greatest concern. An effective, medically-safe and environmentally prudent municipal waste disposal program must be examined and may include a variety of components, Garrigan concludes. We must look to our current waste crisis in terms of long-term solutions and explore opportunities for recycling, the reduction and the reuse of packaging, composting, compaction and all other options, he says. Out collective health is more than the absence of disease. The care for our health and well-being involves protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat...
The Chicago Sun-Times three-day (Sept. 30, Oct. 1 & 2) series of reports on the Robbins incinerator included a report (9-30-90) on violations at Chemical Waste Managements hazardous waste incinerator in Chicago. For a copy of this series contact Tom Sheridan, Chicago Sun-Times, 401 N. Wabash, Chicago, IL 60611 (tel: 312-321-3000). On Oct 7th the paper ran an editorial stating that the 3-day series: ... provides ample evidence that the costly and perhaps dangerous project should be stopped dead in its tracks. It also points to the need for a thorough re-examination of state and local policies that gave the Robbins project the go-ahead in the first place... *** For more information contact: Jeff Tangel, South Cook County Environmental Action, at 312-779-6615 or 312-238-8925.