By Dr. Tom Termotto
Shall we begin by stating that biomass incinerators are rarely, if ever, factually represented by the many sales pitches we see issued by the Energy Industry sector that promotes them. In fact, the marketing language that has now become de rigueur is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”
To the point, biomass incineration is NOT clean and green, sustainable and renewable, carbon neutral and cost effective, or environmentally friendly and ecologically sound. It is quite the opposite of these beautiful and alluring marketing slogans. Biomass incineration is in reality quite polluting, unsustainable to the extreme and, in some cases, less environmentally friendly than coal burning plants.
Remember the old-fashioned hospital incinerator that nobody ever wanted to live downwind from. Who would want mercury vapors, and the many other highly toxic aerosols, wafting through their neighborhood? Well, then, why would a community want a biomass incinerator sited within winds’ reach of their schools, subdivisions and businesses. The post incineration output of these biomass plants can be much worse than a hospital’s depending on what is being incinerated.
Let’s not forget the golden rule of energy production: “Garbage in; garbage out”. Ultimately the permitting process for these incinerators often allows for the burning of various types of refuse and other feedstocks, which will necessarily degrade air quality. A close look at any state air permit application for these biomass plants will reveal the mix of carcinogens, toxins, pollutants, contaminants and poisons that is really quite alarming.
As we have evaluated the emission estimates of various pollutants, which have been submitted by the very biomass companies themselves, we wonder how they make the leap across the chasm to such environmentally attractive sound bites. Let’s be clear about the assortment and type of contaminants which will inevitably show up in the surrounding air of these biomass plants. As follows:
(1) Dioxins and Furans (2) Particulate Matter – 10.0, 2.5 and 1.0 microns (3) Hydrogen Chloride (4) Nitrogen Dioxide (5) Carbon Monoxide (6) Hydrogen Sulfide (7) Sulfur Dioxide (8) Sulfuric Acid (H2SO4) (9) Mercury, Lead and Arsenic (10) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) such as benzene, toluene and naphthalene
One can only imagine the harmful effects to human and animal life that these pollutants will cause in those unfortunate cities and counties that have succumbed to the governmental and energy industry forces, which routinely foist these schemes on an uninformed public. What follows is a quote from the Healthcare Professionals For Clean Environment in their letter to Governor Charlie Crist of Florida regarding a proposed biomass incinerator for Gadsden County, FL.
“As you know full well, biomass incinerators of this type will produce extraordinary amounts of air pollution to include dioxin, one of the most toxic and carcinogenic organic chemicals released into the environment by industry. In addition, this incinerator will be 0.3 tons (according to the ADAGE permit application submitted to DEP) shy of being a major source of a particular hazardous air pollutant (hydrogen chloride) according to the FL DEP’s own regulatory guidance concerning the 10 ton threshold for any single air pollutant. This incinerator will also significantly contribute to the total particulate matter volume which already plagues much of North Florida. We are compelled to point out that particulate matter (PM) concentration directly correlates with a whole host of upper respiratory ailments to include sinusitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, as well as the common cold. More serious respiratory diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, pneumonia, tuberculosis, pulmonary edema, sarcoidosis, pleurisy and adult respiratory distress syndrome are all greatly aggravated by the various pollutants emitted from biomass plants. Chronic respiratory conditions such as COPD, CREST, asthma, bronchitis, reactive airway disease, as well as numerous inhalant allergies will likewise see an increase wherever these irritants exist above certain thresholds. Likewise, illnesses such as influenza and its many seasonal variants will always be exacerbated when the ambient air is fouled by these particulates and chemical emissions.”
The profound medical repercussions and health impacts of this form of incineration and crude energy production cannot be understated. Medical organizations from around the country have been weighing in on this matter for as long as biomass marketeers have been submitting their sales literature to the many small, economically depressed communities that are vulnerable to such ill-conceived proposals. The twenty to thirty long-term jobs, which are created by these biomass propositions, will be taken by many who will inevitably experience dangerous levels of exposure to the aforementioned chemicals. Therefore, they will suffer adverse health conditions, which will then contribute to the local medical burden, as well as significantly increase the healthcare costs associated with lifelong remediation.
In an age when the nation is moving toward more enlightened energy platforms concerning production, dissemination and utilization, it is quite anachronistic that some would have us go back to the Stone Age. Burning trees and the like is, after all, what was done before there was solar, wind, oil and gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. Why in the world, with a global population approaching 7 billion, would we want to go back to energy sources that are as primitive as they are downright dirty?!
Dr. Tom Termotto, BCIM
National Coordinator – COALITION AGAINST CHEMICAL TRESPASS
Member – Floridians Against Incinerators in Disguise