They want to burn more garbage
[Full disclosure: My wife, Carol Hogard, ran against Mark Andrew for DFL endorsement for county commissioner 20 years ago because he led the effort to build the garbage burner downtown and concentrate the poisonous emissions of mercury and dioxin in poverty-impacted central city neighborhoods, areas where we already knew there were high levels of asthma hospitalizations and elevated blood lead levels.]
Hennepin County wants to burn more garbage at its HERC incinerator plant downtown. Currently the plant burns up to 2 million pounds of garbage every day. The county wants to increase this amount by another 400,000 pounds.
Covanta, the company that operates the burner, is guaranteed a certain amount of garbage every day, and according to Lara Norkus-Crampton, a registered nurse who served on the Planning Commission in 2009 when they denied the permit to expand burning, “Covanta is entitled to their tonnage regardless of where it comes from. The more we divert waste into recycling and composting— the more they can import garbage from elsewhere. As of 2010, two-thirds of the garbage came from St Louis Park and Minnetonka. The breakdown at that time showed over half of what was being burned was recyclable or compostable. The childhood asthma hospitalizations are much higher in Minneapolis than in these suburbs.”
In other words, Minneapolis makes strides in recycling and we are rewarded by being able to burn more trash from the suburbs.
According to Minneapolis Neighbors for Clean Air, we should not expand burning at HERC because:
“Burning produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal and 3 times those of natural gas.
“Burning releases all kinds of air toxics and metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, beryllium, copper, cadmium.
“HERC is the largest source of dioxin in the state, as identified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in 2002, representing more than 51% of all the dioxin released. The form released was the most toxic form, the same used as the active ingredient in ‘agent orange.’
“We pay for it not only with our tax dollars, but also with our health.
“There are currently several “hot spots” of pollution from the incinerator due to a modeling study done for the Ballpark EIS, yet no one has alerted those neighborhoods, like St. Anthony West, that they are in a ‘hot zone’ of pollution.
“Between 50% and 66% of what is currently going to the burner is recyclable material or compost that could easily be collected today.
“Recycling rates are flat since the ’80s, Hennepin County is at about 42%, according to its report April 8, 2010.
“Recycling materials avoids releasing greenhouse gasses (73%), whereas burning those materials creates them.
“Burning garbage still results in toxic ash that has to be landfilled. About 20% of the material going in will come back as ash, and the rest becomes air pollution. That ash is much worse to handle and deal with than the recycling and compost.
“In the 2010 MPCA report to the legislature it was identified that air toxics are of primary concern, and among the ones of most concern are dioxins and furans.
Garbage burning was identified as one of the ‘most important’ sources of these emissions that must be curtailed.
“Burning unsorted trash is among the least desirable forms of disposal as ranked in the state hierarchy; reducing waste, recycling and composting all rank above.
”Goals have been set by the county to greatly boost recycling rates by 2015—to 75%, but all the money and resources are going towards the burner.
“HERC is currently located in the most densely populated area of the state and immediately adjacent to an open air ballpark.”
Climate Crisis Coalition of the Twin Cities sent a statement to Minneapolis Zoning & Planning Committee members saying: “The reality is that per megawatt hour, incinerators emit more CO2 than any fossil-fuel based electricity source.”
“Rubbish burners are the leading global source of dioxins and actually help to create more of them.” “Exposure to contaminants has ignited an autoimmune epidemic that affects 23.5 million Americans.”
The Zoning & Planning Committee of the City Council took testimony at its meeting Feb. 28 and voted to continue the appeal from Hennepin County to burn more garbage pending an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the determination of whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is necessary.
Unfortunately, according to Lara Norkus-Crampton, “... the MPCA has endorsed and will continue to endorse the concept that a higher proportion of total municipal solid waste (“MSW”) should be going into a waste-to-energy (“WTE”) system than is currently the case ....
“The Planning Department staff recommended approving this permit, citing practically no data whatsoever—except that the MPCA said it was OK so it must be OK. But if you state your bias as a regulatory agency—then how can it be assumed that you are a source of reliable, unbiased information? The planning commissioners did their own due diligence and found plenty of studies and resolutions from medical and science groups stating the public health concerns around garbage incineration. This is why we said No.
“Covanta and Hennepin County said we got it wrong. Commissioner McLaughlin even called us ‘amateurs’ in the press! All we have asked since 2009 is: If you are appealing our decision then where is your data to prove we got it wrong?
The silence since that time has been deafening.”