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Chemist blasts incineration process

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, January 08, 2009 | 8:11 AM

Dr Paul Connett is known for his specialization on about environmental sustainability and the evils of incinerating trash.

His interest in opposing all kinds of incineration plants began in 1985 when a plant was to be built in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., where he teaches chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He said he started out as a nimby (not in my backyard) but his degree in chemistry propelled him to study the matter further.

Even though the Anderson plant, to be built by PEAT International, will be the first of its kind in the U.S., Connett says it’s incineration with a different name.
“It’s all essentially the same,” he said.

He said between 1985 and 1995, 300 incinerators were defeated in communities around the country.

In traditional incineration, he said, solids are burned and then the gases from the process are cleaned. With PEAT’s plasma arc, the gases are cleaned before they are burned.

“But you’re still hostage to how the cleaning is done,” he said. “The whole process is poorly regulated. It will never be monitored on a scientific level.”

Connett said the dangers to escaping gases lie in the inhalation of nano particles, which represent a billionth of the gases.

“”They’re difficult to capture,” he said. “They can cross any membrane.”

The study of nano pathology, how the nano particles affect people, is new, he noted.

Another area of danger, he noted, was nano particles getting into the food chain.

Connett said he is a Zero Waste advocate. He says recycling and composting are more effective and use less energy than incineration. He dismisses PEAT’s claim that what it burns produced energy.

“This is not an energy-producing facility,” he said. “It’s really a waste of energy. The energy is in the torch. You’re not talking about something green. The only green here is money.”

Connett said the incineration plant would be bad for other industry and mentioned Nestlé, which uses local milk.

He also dismissed the idea that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management could monitor the plant.

“This is the most stupid political move city leaders could make,” he said.

“Give me a break,” he said. He added that such incineration plants need strong regulation, scientific monitoring and aggressive enforcement.

“(IDEM) has given up on air testing. There is no monitoring for nano particles, and (the incinerator) is not being monitored.

“You’re not protected here.”

Connett said there might be 36 hours of monitoring by the state compared to 8,000 hours of operation.

He admits the incineration industry has gotten better over the years, but decried it for using the same upbeat rhetoric through the years.

He wants to debate PEAT officials at the public forum, but it’s not clear if they will be at the meeting. A message was left for Nelson Slavic, spokesman for PEAT, but not returned.

Linda Dawson, economic development director for the city of Anderson, said Mayor Kris Ockomon will make every effort to be at the meeting.

“To present as much information to the public as possible is a positive thing,” said Dawson.

In order to achieve Zero Waste, Connett said, there must be community responsibility, separation of residuals and industrial responsibility. If it can’t be recycled, industry shouldn’t be making it, he said.

By Stephen Dick, Herald Bulletin Assistant Managing Editor

http://www.theheraldbulletin.com/local/local_story_006003229.html
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