September 2nd, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 34
Negative impacts of proposed incinerator at Landfill
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Waste Management and Incinerator Expert, Dr. Paul Connett
Pass Herald Reporter
On August 26th, the Cowley Community Hall had an overwhelming presence of people eager to learn more about the proposed incinerator project at Crowsnest/ Pincher Creek Landfill.

Waste Management and Incinerator Expert, Dr. Paul Connett, spoke informatively and passionately about the devastating effects that can occur to an area that uses incinerators to manage their waste.

Dr. Connett has written a book on optimizing waste management called, Zero Waste Solutions, he has a PHD in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology, is an inspiring waste educator and has travelled through, 49 states, 7 provinces, 62 countries and stopped 300 incinerators from being built in North America.

He is on a mission to help communities understand the negative impact of incineration and how it affects watersheds, animals, air quality, and of course people.

"I first got involved when they tried to build a trash incinerator in my county in 1985. I thought it was a good idea. We could get rid of the terrible landfills and we could produce energy, it sounded like a win-win until I learned that simply burning trash produces the most toxic by-products that we have ever made in a chemical laboratory.

There has only been one incinerator built in the United States since 1997 and it is really a dead industry, for a reason. If you're going to build an incinerator, wear black and mourn because we are burning our children's future, their resources and giving up on the idea of substantiality." Dr. Connett said. He began the open house by informing the audience that the incinerator being discussed for Pincher Creek is a 10-20 ton per day BATCH-fed dual chamber incinerator made by Eco Waste Systems.

The Solid waste is fed into a primary chamber where it is burned creating gasses, which continue into the second chamber where the gas is used to boil steam and in turn, create electricity. The gasses are then cooled down and go through a series of air pollution control devices before they are expelled into the environment. Dr. Connett stressed the economic importance of the cost of these air pollution systems and added, " Half of the cost of a modern incinerator goes into air pollution control. Back in the 1990's it was also established that the minimum size incinerator that you could build that could allow you to economically have the sophisticated air pollution control, was a 400 ton per day incinerator. Anything smaller than that and you may double or triple the costs for these control devices." Even with these devices in place communities near these facilities reported odors, respiratory problems, increased asthma rates , etc. Connett added, "In a Little Rock, Arkansas incinerator the aluminum screens were corroded out and you could tear it like tissue paper." Connett went on to list the main arguments of incineration, which are, it is not a sustainable solution, it is extremely expensive and creates very few jobs."
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An incinerator in Brescia, Italy for example cost 300,000,000 Euros to build and only created 80 permanent jobs. While in Nova Scotia they were able to create 3000 jobs in collecting and separating material 5 years after they started their compost and recycling curb collection program." Connett said.

The third argument is that incineration wastes valuable resources that can be collected and reused instead of wasted. It is said that about 85% of the materials burned can be reused or recycled.

The fourth argument is that incineration is a waste of energy. Far more energy is saved (at the global level) with recycling and reuse. " Comparing recycling to burning, it’s possible to gain 2 times as much energy from paper, 7 times as much for fine paper, 10 times as much for high density polyethylene and 26 times more energy is saved recycling PET plastic rather than burning it. So you can see burning these materials is an environmental crime.

One of the things they want to burn in the PC incinerator is plastic used in agriculture. “There is a good market for that plastic and systems that can be integrated to collect it and to make money from it." Connett said. The fifth argument is that incinerators produce a toxic ash and do not get rid of landfills. After the waste is burned the ash will fall through grates which is then referred to as "bottom ash".

This ash is meant to be the left over from incineration, It is also important to mention that for every 4 tons of trash incinerated there is 1 ton of very toxic ash left over that still needs to be dealt with. Both bottom ash and fly ash contain absolute quantities of dioxins, furans and toxic metals. A study from the institute of medicine in 2003 said," Fetuses and breastfeeding infants may be at particular risk from exposure to dioxin like compounds (DLC's) due to their potential to cause adverse neurodevelopmental, neurobehavioral, and immune system effects in developing systems…"

Connett elaborated, "Dioxins accumulate in animal fat. One litre of cows' milk gives the same dose of dioxin as breathing air next to the cows for 8 months (Connett and Webster, 1987). In one day a grazing cow puts as much dioxin into it's body as a human being would get in 14 years of breathing (McLachlan, 1995). Dioxins steadily accumulate in human body fat, man cannot get rid of them but women can by having a baby. Thus the highest dose of dioxin goes to the fetus and then to the newborn infant via breastfeeding."

The toxic metals in the ash leach out into the environment and In the 1980's this ash failed EP TOX leaching tests frequently. Last but not least is the fact that incinerators put many highly toxic and persistent substances into the air. It will produce Co2, acid gases, more toxic metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead, which have no known use in the human body. Dr. Connett stressed, " Do not build incinerators near bodies of water, where people fish or in food producing areas."

Another issue is the nanoparticles produced by incineration, which Connett discussed, "There is no regulation for nano particles. In the United States, you see a strong relationship between sickness, mobility and mortality with the level of particulates in cities. Air control devices do not efficiently capture them; they go through the membranes and filters, they travel long distances and remain suspended for long periods of time. The particles are so tiny they go through the blood membranes in the human body. There is no defense." He added "even if we can make incinerators safe we can never make them sensible.
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The modern incinerator is attempting to affect a bad idea. Our task in this day and age is not to find ways to destroy discarded material but to stop making packaging and products that have to be destroyed." The waste problem is only going to be solved with better organization, better education and better industrial design.

The inadequacy of our waste disposal methods leads to 9 million tons of plastic that go into our oceans every year as well as air pollution, earth saturation and the waste created by simply acquiring these resources. He added, " As far as sustainability is concerned, every ton that we bury or burn takes us in the wrong direction. Every ton we compost, re-use, recycle and avoid using takes us in the right direction. We have to say to industry, if we can't reuse it, if we can't recycle it, if we can't compost it, you guys (industry) shouldn't be making it."

Dr. Connett explained more practical methods of resource management and waste disposal, which he sums up with, 10 Steps To Zero Waste 2020. The 10 steps include, 1) Source separation, 2) Door to Door Collection, 3) Composting, 4)Recycling, 5)Reuse, Repair and deconstruction (deconstruct old structures and reuse the lumber or other materials), 6) Economic Incentives, 7) Waste Reduction Initiatives, 8)Residual Separation and Research Centres, 9) Better Industrial Design and 10) Interim Landfill.

He also explained to the room the impressive economic value and job opportunities that are often created with these types of zero waste systems and facilities in place." This 10 step plan is better for the economy, small business, social justice, and it's better for our health as there are less toxins from landfills and incinerators.

It's better for our planet as it's a more sustainable process and it's better for our children, more hope and a brighter future." Dr.Connett had some final messages, " to politicians, put your faith back in people, stop trying to solve all the problems with magic machines and over paid consultants.

To activists, have fun! Enjoy this battle. You are fighting for the future of this planet, you're fighting for your children, grandchildren and so on." Dr.Connett ended the open house discussion by encouraging the room to break out into a short song, which was accepted with laughter and enthusiasm.

The audience sang along with Connett with one of the main lyrics being, " we don't want incineration."
September 2nd ~ Vol. 85 No. 34
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