|Commissioners to mull incinerator before final hearing|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Mike Anderson|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 14:20|
The first of two public hearings to consider a Pennsylvania company’s plans to build a medical waste incinerator on 24 acres north of the Walmart Distribution Center drew a standing-room-only crowd at a Baker County Commission meeting on the evening of April 3.
Although officials of Integrated Waste Systems Inc. assured the audience that the plant would be designed and built to provide the best pollution control systems in the nation and meet the most stringent environmental regulations, many residents urged the county to reject the proposed development.
A final decision on a proposed development agreement with the company likely will be made following the second public hearing at 6 p.m. on April 16.
“I think we have a lot to study in the next two weeks before this comes back to the commission,” said Commission Chairman Gordon Crews at the end of this week’s hearing, which lasted more than two hours. “We’ll make a decision then on whether it’s best for Baker County or not.”
Dozens of residents packed the commission room, including 14 who addressed the commission and spoke against the project. They expressed concerns primarily focused on the potential harm to the environment and public health risks.“Who will hold them accountable to ensure they won’t poison our atmosphere?” said Allison Broughton, who recently resigned her position on the county’s Land Planning Agency to campaign against the proposed incinerator facility.
Joe Brazil of Glen St. Mary said even the most well-designed plants malfunction from time to time. If one of the proposed plant’s filter systems were to break down, he said, “We could have some really nasty stuff going into the air.”
Officials from Integrated Waste Management Systems Inc., however, said the proposed plant, called a “Bio-Medical Thermal Reduction Facility,” would feature the most modern pollution control equipment that exists and would be the only plant of its kind designed to meet new federal environmental standards imposed in 2009 which will go into effect in 2014.
Existing medical waste incinerators will have to be retrofitted to meet the new standards, at tremendous expense, or be shut down, said Marvin J. Barry, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and president of Integrated Waste Management Systems.
The company’s air emissions permit engineer, Bill Straub, of Kimberton, PA, said the facility would release nine regulated pollutants that are already present in the air today, including carbon monoxide, dioxin, mercury and lead.
He said the 2009 pollution limits for medical waste incinerators are between 10 and 100 times lower, or more restrictive, than current pollution limits established in the 1990s. He also said emission limits for carbon monoxide from vehicles range from 5 to 15 parts per million and the proposed facility would be limited to carbon monoxide emissions of no more than 11 parts per million.“So we’re in the same range,” Mr. Straub said.
“We wanted to build the absolutely best facility we could,” said Mr. Barry, adding that it would be a model facility that others in the industry could visit to learn about the newest technology.
The facility plans include about 92,800 square feet of building space, including a 50,000-square-foot structure housing the incinerator and a smoke stack of no more than 100 feet all, a 162-space parking lot and storm water retention facilities.
If the project is approved, Mr. Barry said, 59 employees would be hired by the end of 2013 and many will be Baker County residents. He said the minimum starting wage will be $15 an hour, or close to $20 an hour with benefits added.
At the end of his presentation and before any residents were given an opportunity to speak, Mr. Barry urged everyone to “keep an open mind” and get the facts straight.
But it was obvious that the majority of people in attendance already had their minds made up. They did not want the incinerator in their county — no matter what anyone had to say about the state-of-art technology that would go into the design and construction of the facility.
Richard M. Cooper, of Elvis Starling Road, said he had done a lot of Internet research into medical waste incinerators and had found that “wherever there was one of these plants there was a high incidence of disease around it.”
“Educate yourself on this thing,” Mr. Cooper urged commissioners.
Commissioners promised to do just that before they take a final vote on the project.
“I want to know and understand more about what will be coming out of the facility,” Commissioner Michael Crews said.
Commissioner Adam Giddens said he, too, needed a lot more information. He also recommended the county select an engineer to conduct an independent analysis of the proposed plant and any potential health risks.
A 25-page development agreement spells out the details of the proposed development. It functions as a contract between Integrated Waste Systems Inc., the county and the county’s development commission, which has a contract to sell the 24-acre site to the company.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 07 April 2012 11:48|