A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 July 18, 1991

Battling to keep East Liverpool, Ohio,

off the map of injustice. Part 2.


The power to permit, but not the power to protect

POOR SCIENCE. From what has already been said in Waste Not 158, “common sense” alone should have forced any impartial observer to reject the site for this facility, however the proponents and the regulators did not rely on “common sense”, they used the dubious art of risk analysis to “prove” that the largest hazardous waste incinerator being built in the U.S. was safe. However, in addition to using an inappropriate air and dispersion model, there are many more inadequacies with their assessment.

1. They assumed that the 99.99% Destruction and Removal Efficiency (DRE) required in the test burns for organics will be maintained for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for 20 years. No allowance was made for upset conditions.

2. They did not consider risks for the Products of Incomplete Combustion (PICs), the most worrying aspect of the toxic emissions coming from an incinerator. 3. They did not calculate the risks for toxic metal emissions, even though metals cannot be destroyed in an incinerator and their emissions will greatly exceed the 0.01% assumed in the DRE calculation for organics. In fact, the plant has been permitted to put out 4.7 tons of lead a year. When these emissions were mentioned to Dr. Herbert Needleman (one of the foremost authorities on lead’s impact on young children, in the world) he said, “When we took the lead out of gasoline it was a major environmental triumph, children's blood levels improved considerably...Now to say that 4.7 tons of lead emissions will be emitted from a nearby statiic source, is awful...” In Pittsburg, June 19-25, ‘91.

4. They did not consider the pollutant pathways to citizens other than the inhalation pathway. We now know that other pathways -particularly the foodchain pathway- delivers far greater doses of many pollutants than the inhalation route. For example, Tom Webster and I (PC) have calculated that one quart of cow’s milk would deliver the same dose of dioxins as you would receive if you breathed the air near the cow for eight months! (See Chemosphere, Vol. 16, Nos. 8/9, pp 2079-2084, 1987.)

5. They did not consider exposure to mercury via fish. We now know that as little as 0.3 grams of mercury can contaminate a 25 acre lake to the point that consumption of large fish may have to be limited, because of the conversion of elemental mercury to methyl mercury which bioconcentrates in the fish. (See Science News, March 9, 1991, for an excellent review of this issue). The plant is permitted to put out over one million grams of mercury per year! How much of this mercury will end up in lakes and ponds has not been calculated. 6. They did not consider the export of risks to people beyond the local population. A thorough risk assessment would consider the export of risk via the export of impacted food. This is especially relevant for the farmland between the facility and Youngstown, OH, and Pittsburgh, PA.

7. They did not consider the risks posed by events other than the burning process, such as truck, train or ship accidents, risks from run-off into the Ohio River; and risks from fires, explosions, etc.

8. They did not consider the specific risks to young children (especially the children in the elementary school located on a hill above this facility). We now know that young children are more sensitive to these pollutants than adults and we have to be particularly concerned about impacts on their developing neurological and immune systems.

THE ARROGANCE OF POWER. Arrogance can be defined as ignorance backed up with overconfidence. This definition certainly applies in this case. Officials from the Ohio EPA and Region 5 of the Federal EPA, are declaring this facility “safe” and “no threat to human health or the environment” even though they can point to no scientific studies that can substantiate that claim, either for this outrageous siting or any other hazardous waste incinerator. In their arrogance they have failed to note the difference between the “power to permit” these facilities and the “power to protect the public from these facilities” once they have been built. Meanwhile, the public has found out the difference between the “theory” of “safety” as brought to them in the artificial world of test burn data and risk analyses and the “practice of incineration” as experienced by the communities who live with them. Thus any citizen can challenge this official arrogance with one simple question:

“You claim that the proper operation of a well-designed, well-maintained incinerator facility
would not endanger human health and the environment, then please tell me which of the 17
commercial hazardous waste incinerator facilities operating in the U.S. meet this description?”

At a recent Sierra Club conference in Chicago, I asked this question to Val Adamcus, head of federal EPA‘s Region 5, and he admitted he could not point to one facility that met this claim. Unfortunately, whether the claims of safety are the result of incompetence or corruption, the end result is the same. We have government spokepersons acting as public relations for this industry, even though the taxpayers are paying their salaries.

GOVERNOR GEORGE VOINOVICH OF OHIO, who took office in January 1991, is trying to wash his hands of the responsibility for this decision. According to a report in The Intelligence (6-4-91, Wheeling, WV) a spokesman in his office said that he “is not sure that officials in West Virginia and Pennsylvania realize the permits were issued during the administration of former Governor Richard Celeste.” That is not going to wash. His administration can call a halt to the building of the facility at any time if there is any question about the health risks it poses to the local population and beyond. Until those answers are forthcoming the present course of action is arbitrary, reckless and dangerous. For the Governor to sanction it, by default, is totally irresponsible. The price of power must be responsibility.

CITIZENS BATTLE ON, EVEN AS THE BUILDERS BUILD. Citizens in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania are putting together a remarkable coalition (the Tri-State Environmental Council) to fight this facility. Already in just a few months they have achieved some remarkable successes:

May 1991 The Columbiana County Medical Association, of Ohio, voted to oppose the project.

5-21-91 The Ohio State Medical Association passed a resolution opposing the incinerator.

6-2-91: Martin Sheen, the film actor, visited communities in PA, WV, and OH that will be impacted by the facility and vowed to “go all the way on this issue.” He said: “ Incinerators close the future...With these plants, the environment is threatened...This is big business and greed. We are all entitled to our health.” The Intelligence, WV, 6-3-91.

6-25-91 The Pittsburgh City Council, PA, unanimously voted for a resolution opposing this facility.

June 1991 West Virginia’s Governor, Gaston Caperton, has publicly announced he is opposed to the incinerator and has set up a Task Force to see how West Virginia can help to stop it.

June 1991 West Virginia’s Attorney General, Mario Palumbo, is also looking into legal measures that can be taken to halt the building.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP. Some would want to pretend that this is a local issue. It is not. You cannot localize injustice. As Martin Luther King Jr., said: “Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere.”

1. Write or phone Governor George Voinovich and ask him to halt this outrageous project outright. Address: 77 South High Street, 30th floor, Columbus, OH 43215. Tel: 614-466-3555.

2. Send a copy of your letter to SOS so that they can see the solidarity building up nationwide and beyond. Address: SOS (SAVE OUR STATE), 23 Forest Hills, Wheeling, West Virginia 26003.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Terri Swearingen in Chester, WV at 304-387-0574; Alonzo Spencer in East Liverpool, OH, at 216-385-4584; or David Deakyne in Hookstown, PA, at 412-573-4845.

WASTE NOT # 157 A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.