A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 OCTOBER 1994


Our Response to the Threat of
Legal Action over Rigo Comments.

PART 2 of 3-Part Series: The Background: In March 1992 residents living close to the Columbus MSW incinerator became alarmed about the number of health problems in their community. They began their own investigation of the possible sources of the tumors, cancers and respiratory problems that they and their children were experiencing. At this point they learned that the Columbus trash incinerator was operating with only one pollution control device: an electrostatic precipitator, or ESP. In 1993 they were informed by an incinerator employee that dioxin emission tests were performed at the incinerator in 1992. The citizens requested the results of the 1992 dioxin tests, and upon receipt of the results they became highly alarmed and wondered if their health problems were related to these dioxin emissions from the incinerator. As they sought help from experts from around the country they discovered that the Columbus incinerator dioxin emissions were some of the highest ever recorded in the U.S. The citizens contacted William Sanjour, a whistleblower at the U.S. EPA, who was so concerned with the numbers that he fired off a memo1 (Jan. 12, 1994) to Carol Browner warning of the dangers posed. In order to quell the growing concern generated by Sanjour’s memo the Ohio EPA rushed in to publish a Health Risk Assessment on February 28, 1994 (which they released on April 2, 1994). While the overall thrust of the Risk Assessment was to downplay the significance of the dioxin emissions (they only considered the inhalation pathway for exposure) they did confirm the very high dioxin emissions. By this point the U.S. EPA had become very concerned about the Columbus dioxin emissions which were five times what they had estimated in 1993 for all U.S. trash incinerators combined2. As a result of their concern the U.S. EPA, in 1994, ordered dioxin testing at 12 U.S. incinerators operating with hot-sided ESP’s3. In March 1994, the Columbus incinerator was retested. But prior to the testing a whistleblower who worked at the incinerator informed the residents and William Sanjour that a special waste stream was being stored at the incinerator for the March 1994 dioxin tests. The waste that would be burned in the March tests was being stored, dried and having some of its plastics content removed. The whistleblower’s information was later substantiated by entries made in the daily log of the Columbus trash incinerator (see Waste Not # 302). The March dioxin test results were significantly lower than the 1992 test results. Meanwhile, efforts by the Columbus Department of Health to downplay the dioxin issue were falling on deaf ears as more and more citizens were learning from leaked information from the U.S. EPA’s reassessment that dioxin was actually more dangerous than once thought. It was at this juncture a press conference was organized by Mr. Pompili, the Assistant Commissioner for health for the City of Columbus to give his take on the dioxin issue and to put into perspective the Columbus incinerator dioxin emissions. Dr. Rigo addressed the August 18, 1994, press conference and stated that dioxin emissions from all U.S. trash incinerator emissions combined contributed only 2.6 percent (850 grams TEQ) of the total dioxin entering the U.S. environment. Dr. Rigo did not refer to any estimates of the annual contribution made by the Columbus incinerator. Waste Not # 302 reported on this Press Conference, which resulted in the threats of litigation from Dr. Rigo’s lawyer, Michael Diamant.

Our Response: We would like to begin our response to the letters from Dr. Rigo and Mr. Diamant by apologizing to Dr. Rigo for stating in Waste Not # 302 that, “he [Dr. Rigo] knew that just one of these incinerators - the Columbus incinerator...(based on a 1992 test) was yielding 984 grams of dioxin TEQ [per year]!”

What we should have said was that “we assume that Dr. Rigo knew that the Ohio EPA calculations for the 1992 dioxin test ( published in February 19944) showed that the Columbus incinerator was yielding 984 grams of dioxin TEQ per year.”

More precisely, we had assumed that Dr. Rigo, a professional consultant dealing with incineration and dioxin issues, hired by the Columbus Department of Health because of high dioxin emissions from the Columbus incinerator, would have reviewed all the documents dealing with the dioxin emissions from that facility. In particular, we had assumed that he would have reviewed the Health Risk Assessment4 prepared by the Ohio EPA and published on February 28, 1994. We had assumed, therefore, that Dr. Rigo knew that this agency had stated that the dioxin emissions from the one boiler that was tested (based upon an average of five tests) were 7.397 x 10-6 grams per second5. We further assumed that armed with the knowledge that the Ohio EPA had calculated the average boiler usage was 4.22 boilers6 (the incinerator has 6 boilers), that he, like us, could have made the simple extrapolation to an annual emission rate of 984 grams per year, using this calculation:

7.397 x 10-6 g/s/boiler x 4.22 x 60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days = 984 grams per year
(Average usage) minutes hours day year

We further assumed that if Dr. Rigo had reviewed these emission levels prepared by the Ohio EPA (and reviewed by the U.S. EPA) and disagreed with them, he would have made that disagreement public at the August 18, 1994, Press Conference. Finally, we assumed that if Dr. Rigo had known the 984 grams per year figure, extrapolated from the Ohio EPA calculations, that he would have realized that this invalidated his estimate that all U.S. trash incinerators combined were only yielding an annual emission of 850 grams. However, despite what we consider elementary and reasonable deductions on our part, we have to admit that we were not privy to what Dr. Rigo actually knew on August 18, 1994, and so we apologize to Dr. Rigo.

Having apologized, we must say that we are very puzzled by some other comments made by Dr. Rigo and his lawyer, Mr. Diamant. We are going to address these issues, but in the interest of fairness we are going to offer Dr. Rigo a chance to reply before we go to press so that we can include his comments in this Waste Not series. (See Waste Not # 305.)

In Dr. Rigo’s letter to Mr. Pompili (Sept 15, 1994) he claims that his 850 gram total for all U.S. trash incinerator emissions combined “is not invalidated by a comparison to the highest individual run in the two-conditioned 1992 Columbus test.” However, the Ohio EPA made it quite clear in their Health Risk Assessment4 that the emission figure they used (and which extrapolates to a 984 gram per year total) was based on an average of all 5 tests, which included the three compliance tests and the two baseline tests, as the following excerpt makes clear:

Upon discussion with staff from Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA, it was agreed that the TEQs used for the risk assessment should represent the average of the entire five sampling runs, including Run 3-2 (with the shorter sampling time) for the reason that the co-firing of the natural gas had little or no effect on reducing the TCDD/TCDF concentrations exiting the stack.4 (page 9)

In his Sept. 15th letter, Dr. Rigo claims that he gets a figure of 516 grams per year using the “correct average baseline value.” We are puzzled, in the light of the Ohio EPA’s analysis, which was apparently reviewed by the U.S. EPA, why he feels using only the two baseline values gives a more representative value than the average of all five tests, especially since one of the two baseline tests was only run for 50% of the normal testing time because it “was shortened due to thunderstorms in the area.”7

We are further puzzled by Dr. Rigo’s estimates of 516 grams, since extrapolation from 0.18 kg/year, given as the average baseline emission by the Ohio EPA7, yields a total emission (assuming a 4.22 average boiler usage) of 760 grams per year

0.18 kg/year x 1000 g/kg x 4.22 = 760 grams per year

We would appreciate Dr. Rigo sending us details of his calculations so that we can run them by the Ohio EPA for their comments.

Even if we take Dr. Rigo’s estimated 516 grams TEQ annual total for the Columbus incinerator at its face value, we are still puzzled why he didn’t draw attention to it at the August 18th Press Conference since it represents 60 percent of the 850 grams TEQ total he had estimated for ALL (127+) U.S. trash incinerators combined. Such a comparison would have indicated that either the Columbus incinerator was very high, or his estimate for the combined total of all U.S. trash incinerators was very low. His omission becomes even more puzzling when it is taken in conjunction with a statement made by Mr. Pompili (Assistant Health Commissioner for the city of Columbus) in a September 16, 1994, letter to Stanley and Sherry Loscko:

“the (Columbus incinerator) is probably in the top 10% of all municipal waste incinerators in dioxin emissions that have been tested, but we are definitely not number one or two...”

If the Columbus incinerator is not “number one or two” in U.S. trash incinerator dioxin emissions, and as Dr. Rigo estimated that 516 grams dioxin TEQ from the 1992 Columbus test burn, then the lowest total figure for all U.S. incinerators must be at least three times 516 grams, or 1548 grams per year. Even this assumes that the other 127 or so trash incinerators have a combined emission total of zero grams of dioxin! It is quite possible, however, that Mr. Pompili and Dr. Rigo have made their calculations since the August 18th Press Conference, in which case we hope that they will share with us their latest views on this matter.

In his September 19th letter to us, Mr. Diamant refers to our extrapolation of this 984 gram figure for annual dioxin TEQ emissions from the Columbus incinerator as “clearly erroneous and does not follow accepted statistical and engineering standards.” In our view, Mr. Diamant is wrong in this assertion. As the calculations above indicate, we derived the 984 grams per year total by applying simple arithmetic to the 7.397 x 10-6 gram per second for the boiler tested and assuming the 4.22 boiler usage figure supplied by the Ohio EPA. It required no reference to engineering or statistical methodology on our part. If Mr. Diamant has a problem it is with the Ohio EPA. ---- Continued to Waste Not # 305.

References appear in Waste Not # 305


WASTE NOT # 304. 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 $US50; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.