White Deer Energy Project
(a group we will call WDEP)
Their plan is to burn thousands of shredded used tires each day in a combustion boiler to produce steam. This steam would be used to produce electric power for National Gypsum’s production of wall board and related products. The process would increase National Gypsum’s energy efficiency and reduce its use of other fuels. The officials we talked to represented National Gypsum, the suppliers of the tires, the builder of the burner, and an air pollution control firm. We were invited to this discussion because they were told that if OUE concluded that their burner might be hazardous, we might organize to resist it. We assured them that they had heard correctly. Our conversation with the WDEP team, their web site and pamphlet review provided much useful information but left us with several key questions regarding whether their burner would be a harmless job creator. At this point, we see as the most serious potential hazards of the burner (1) that such tire burning produces tons of toxic ashes which have to be recycled or disposed of, usually in a landfill, and (2) there are clearly potential dangers from the hundreds of thousands of pounds of emissions from the burner stacks each year into our ambient air.
What follows are the questions we most want to answer:
What chemicals would be emitted from the boiler stack?
In its website Forum, and in response to a question we posed, WDEP summarized the currently anticipated maximum monthly emissions and notes that they are subject to change. We need to note that the list includes almost all of those chemicals that are the principal basis of EPA regional, air quality assessments, and we assume that is why WDEP provides only them. We have also extrapolated these quantities to indicate yearlong emissions for each category.
What are the hazards of the burner, as we see them?
The obvious hazards of such a project are implied by WDEP’s application because it goes to great lengths to describe the chemicals it will put into the air, many of them highly toxic. From our view, there are three things to worry about, the first of them air pollution and other dangers from trucks delivering an average of 100 tons of shredded tires per day to the site. Second, the shredded tires will be turned into ashes, gases, and microscopic “particulate matter” (PM), all of which include toxins. Third the ash – which are recycled or taken to a land fill. Particulate matter are very, very small highly toxic elements that really, really smell and can get into your systems and cause great harm.
Early on we posed the following question:
“Are you able to guarantee that people living downwind from the incinerator would not suffer harm, either from its operations or emissions?”
No clear cut answers were forthcoming.
What do we want? Our preference would be to see local government officials establish an ongoing public forum of its own to have an open, honest, and fearless discussion of this incinerator project.
Our study of the evidence makes it clear to us that it is not reasonable to incinerate one hundred tons of tires every day close to where human beings live.
Read more about this battle in the OUE Update Fall 2011 and in the upcoming special edition of the OUE Update to be on our website very soon.