A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 MARCH 22, 1990
HENNEPIN COUNTY'S 1,000 TPD MASS-BURN INCINERATOR
BUILDER & OPERATOR: BLOUNT ENERGY RESOURCE
CORP.'s subsidiary HENNEPIN ENERGY
RESOURCES CORP. (HERC).
OWNER: GENERAL ELECTRIC CAPITAL CORP. In l988 BLOUNT sold its ownership of the Minneapolis incinerator to G.E. CAPITAL CORP. Ownership will transfer after the incinerator passes test acceptance. G.E. is estimated to BLOUNT'S equity and tax benefits. BLOUNT will lease the plant from G.E. CAPITAL CORP. and operate it. (See Waste Not #7l).
LOCATION: Sited across from a large low-cost housing project in the north end of downtown Minneapolis (at 6th Ave. N. & 7th St.) and approximately one mile from the Mississippi River.
HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT: Prepared by Hennepin County and reviewed by the CENTER FOR THE BIOLOGY OF NATURAL SYSTEMS and KONHEIM & KETCHUM.
ASH DISPOSAL: Currently the ash is being transported 500 miles to a WASTE MANAGEMENT INC. landfill outside Joliet, Illinois. Negotiations are underway between Hennepin County and the town of Fargo, North Dakota, for disposal of the Minneapolis incinerator ash.
Hennepin County's ultimate plans appear to be ash utilization in road paving. There were many schemes to get Minnesota towns to accept an ash dump, but none have succeeded to date.
TIP FEES: As of January l, l990, the tip fee is $95 per ton. (Approx. $50 is for Blount and $45 is for county assessments to pay for other garbage/recycling costs.) From October to December l989 the tip fee was $75 per ton. The Star Tribune of 2-23-88 reported the tip fee estimates for l990 at $70 per ton and for l995 a tip fee of $80.
ASH DISPOSAL FEES: The county is contractually obligated to arrange for ash disposal and pay for the ash disposal. The combined tip fee and transportation costs to dispose of ash in Joliet, Il, is $60 per ton, which Hennepin County pays for.
PART 1: THE MINNEAPOLIS STORY: "The Land of l0,000 Lakes" has pro-incinerator officials at every level of state government. The Minneapolis incinerator went on line in October l989, two months after construction was completed. The delay was due to the fact that Hennepin County had not secured an ash disposal site. The Minneapolis incinerator, referred to as HERC, has been riddled with problems, controversy and litigation. Notable opponents of this project (to name a few) have been Minneapolis City Councilpeople Carol Johnson and Tony Scallon and County Commissioner John Derus. Other opposition surfaced when 20 staff members of the Minnesota Pollution Control Authority (MPCA) signed a letter to MPCA Commissioner Gerald Willet on November l, l988, stating that the potential effects of incineration on public health and the environment are not fully known. The major group watchdogging and opposing the Minneapolis incinerator over the years has been EARTH PROTECTOR , INC.
HOW DID MINNEAPOLIS GET AN INCINERATOR? Leslie Davis of EARTH PROTECTOR, INC., summed it up in an interview he gave to City Pages (MN), 9-7-88: The county "hired HDR, a consultant that advised them to burn, as early as l975. Before I think any of the [current] commissioners were even on their job the county was on the direction to this incinerator. From 1975 to l986 Hennepin County did nothing to abate even a teaspoon-full of garbage to extend the life of existing landfills so they would have time to make these decisions in a comfortable, reasonable and cooperative way. They've allowed a crisis to develop and what they were left with is a few persistent people - to quote Jacques Cousteau, the 'perceptive few that see the impending disaster and try to alert the slumbering many' that were being had. Not maliciously by some evil board of county commissioners but a group of men that met together and have been ill-advised and ill-informed and made the wrong decision...this is a political project; it's not to handle waste intelligently or manage it properly or cost-effectively. It doesn't have anything to do with any social consciousness. The county commissioners got trapped. They got suckered, they bought a while elephant and that's what they got over here now."
HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT: The Hennepin County Planning Council prepared the Health Risk Assessment in l985, which was reviewed by Dr. Barry Commoner's Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS). Dr. Commoner found an unacceptably high cancer risk: 260 cases per million. (Risk Assessment of the health effects of PCDD and PCDF emissions from the proposed Hennepin County Trash-Burning Incinerator", CBNS Final Report of l-l7-86.) The CBNS findings were contradicted by the consulting firm of Konheim & Ketchum which relied on data bases developed by Roy F. Weston's consultant Kay Jones. [Kay Jones was also Weston's consultant for the 3,000 tpd Combustion-Engineering incinerator in Detroit, MI. Jones recommended to Detroit not to put scrubbers and baghouses on the incinerator.] For a more in-depth review of the Health Risk Assessment see Garbage Incineration and the Hennepin County Incinerator", by James Michael Orange, Hamline Journal of Public Law and Policy, Vol. 9, No. l. In January l987 the MPCA issued the air and solid waste permits for the Minneapolis incinerator. On November l, l988, twenty staff members of the MPCA signed a letter to MPCA Commissioner Willet, which stated:
"...our knowledge of the biogeochemical cycling of dioxins and other compounds and their effects on human health is extremely incomplete, as is reflected in the orders of magnitude uncertainties in the human health risk assessments. In addition, many other environmental effects of pollutant emissions are incompletely understood. For example, many pollutant sources also generate toxic ash, and we are continuing to find levels of contaminants in ash which may pose significant impacts on wastewater treatment plants and/or receiving streams. The bottom line is that we can not fully evaluate all the potential environmental impacts of many toxic pollutant sources. Given these uncertainties, the question arises as to where the burden of proof lies. Risk Assessment is not likely to provide definitive answers to the questions of environmental impacts anytime soon, if ever...The uncertainties in the evaluation of environmental impacts should lead us to greater caution in our reviews and permitting activities and should not be used to justify a decision to issue a permit...Our state's track record on policy and regulation in the area of waste management has not been admirable...All too often there has been insufficient study and planning for efficient waste management."
FINANCING AND OWNERSHIP: "...Blount received $l29 million in industrial development bonds that were used to finance the burner free of state taxation. State law requires that facilities financed with such bonds not be done so with the the intent to sell them. At issue is whether a subsidiary of Blount Inc. had no plans at the time the bonds were sold to employ the sale-leaseback arrangement it wants the County Board to approve today...According to several people involved in the project, the firm approached the county about using the sale-leaseback approach in the summer of l986, but it was decided that time was too tight because of the pending bond sale...Walter Duffy, outside counsel for the county on the incinerator financing told commissioners last week that under state law: 'You can't finance these projects with IDBs (industrial development bonds) and then sell them. So at the time they had to tell us that they had no present intention. We accepted that..." Star Tribune, 2-29-88. Hennepin County approved the sale of Blount's ownership in the Minneapolis incinerator to General Electric Capital Corp. "...Blount said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will sell its entire garbage-business or bring in a partner. 'We believe the industry is facing several years of uncertainty because of unpredictable and rapidly changing political and environmental climates,' the firm told shareholders in its annual report...In fiscal year l989 the division containing Blount's incinerator operations reported a $28 million loss on revenues of $78 million..." Star Tribune, 6-27-89. According to Leslie Davis, director of Earth Protector, Inc., the transfer of ownership to General Electric Capital Corp. will take place after the incinerator passes acceptance tests. It is estimated that G.E. Capital Corp. paid $30,500,000 for Blount's equity and tax benefits. Blount will lease the plant from G.E. Capital Corp. and operate it.
SALE/LEASEBACK OF HONOLULU INCINERATOR: A similar deal was struck in Honolulu, Hawaii, when the City of Honolulu negotiated a sale-leaseback arrangement with the Ford Credit Corp. on the City's 2,200 tpd RDF Combustion- Engineering incinerator. The city's C-E incinerator, built a few hundred yards from the ocean in Honolulu, went on line in October l989. The sale/leaseback went through in November l989. This deal was arranged because the City of Honolulu found the debt repayments too high and Ford Credit Corp. found the tax benefits attractive. Roy F. Weston were the consultants to the City of Honolulu for the incinerator. The incinerator was not opposed by the Hawaiian chapters of Audubon, Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) or the Sierra Club. Instead, these groups litigated for best available control technology, which they eventually won after EPA ruled in favor of BACT. The incinerator had a 20-month construction halt waiting for the EPA's decision. The Honolulu incinerator ash is landfilled approx. 8 miles away at a city-owned landfill operated by Waste Management Inc. The only groups who opposed the siting of an incinerator in Honolulu were residents, who were able to defeat at least 2 prior proposed sitings because of their strong opposition. The site where the incinerator was eventually built is zoned as industrial with more shoreline and sandy beaches than residential areas. The Honolulu chapters of Audubon, Sierra & NRDC didn't oppose this 2,200 tpd incinerator because the policy of their national headquarters accept incineration with best available control technology. The ash is being stored at the WMI-run landfill while liners are being installed at one section of the landfill, which is situated on a steep hill site about 2,000 feet from the ocean. Waste Not editors visited this landfill in January l990 and saw how the ash was dumped. The truck drivers climbed on top of the ash trucks to remove the canvas-like covers from the trucks and then had the task of folding the large covers to put back in the trucks. They had little protection and ash clouds were visible as the trucks dumped the ash. Another problem that could be seen was that the truck wheels went into the ash and ash was therefore carried off-site.
Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, New York 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.