Incinerator foes step up efforts

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Incinerator foes step up efforts

Postby Wilberforce » Sat May 31, 2008 10:32 am

Incinerator foes step up efforts
Friday, May 30, 2008
Citing health concerns, opponents want Detroit to shut facility, focus on landfill use, recycling.
Jim Lynch / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Opponents of Detroit's controversial incinerator are intensifying efforts to shut down what they
say is an old-fashioned, inefficient and unhealthy way of getting rid of trash.

They want the city to end its decades-long reliance on the incinerator and focus on recycling and landfill use.
The city's lease with the privately owned incinerator ends next year and demonstrators Thursday sought to
pressure Detroit City Council members into making a stand.

Dan Sordyl, whose house on Kirby Street sits two blocks from the incinerator near I-75 and I-94, said fumes
from the site pose health hazards.

"It's really thick at times, depending on which way the wind is blowing," the 43-year-old said. "If it's coming
my way, it fills the neighborhood with toxins. I know what burnt plastic smells like, and you can't tell me that
what you're breathing here is good for you."

The city has invested nearly $1.2 billion in the incinerator since it was brought on-line in the late 1980s.
Members of the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority -- the body appointed by Mayor Kwame
Kilpatrick to oversee the city's waste handling -- are strongly considering renewing their lease with the
plant's owners or even purchasing the facility outright.

But at least one council member is ready to cut all ties.

"It's outrageous that we're still operating that incinerator," said Councilwoman JoAnn Watson. "Detroit is
the only one of the largest 30 cities that does not have a curbside recycling program. That's something we
should be able to expect and something that I'm demanding."

The incinerator takes in 3,000 to 3,500 tons of trash per day from Detroit and outside communities.
The plant burns that trash to produce both steam and electricity. Each year, the operation produces 68
megawatts of power -- enough electricity for 60,000 homes.

Detroit's annual bond payments for the incinerator end a year from now, but officials with the authority
must notify incinerator co-owners Energy Investors Funds and GE Corp. of their intentions by July 1.

When Detroit officials moved to build the incinerator, they were lauded by some for being forward-thinking.
Landfill costs were unstable and seemingly on the rise, and instead of contributing to the tonnage being
dumped in the ground, Detroit could burn its waste in an incinerator to create energy.

But concerns about emissions have grown since that time and nearly all of the nation's largest metropolitan
areas now recycle chunks of their waste stream. While some cities recycle as much as 60 percent of their
waste streams, Detroit recycles 8 percent.

"This was definitely not beneficial to us," said Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams, the mayor's point-person on
the incinerator and GDRRA chairman. "But at the time, it made sense."

Steam produced by incineration is sold to Detroit Edison and used by 135 customers on the downtown
Steam Loop, including the city. If officials choose to move away from incineration, those customers,
including Detroit, could be affected. The city stands to lose roughly $24 million if it fails to meet contractual
obligations to sell energy to Detroit Edison through 2024.

But recycling proponents say that by capitalizing on industries eager to make use of the city's glass, plastic
and other reusable materials, Detroit could lure new businesses here and create jobs.

"Once we move into full recycling mode, then a lot of that material becomes attractive to other companies
that may move in," said Guy Williams, a board member of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice.

Much of what locals see coming from the stacks of the plant is water vapor, said Tony Long, the facility
manager for Covanta Energy of New Jersey, which operates the incinerator. In addition, the plant's
emissions are far below what is permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Incinerator foes step up efforts
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