REM’s proposal to build a large incinerator in our community comes with a number of health risks to citizens. While there are a wide variety of sources available on the threats to health that incineration poses (see links on Information page), the following sources are particularly helpful in shedding light on how REM’s incinerator could be harmful to the health of Port Hope residents.
1. Dr. Stan Blecher’s presentation on REM’s proposal (read full presentation)
In November 2012, Dr. Stan R. Blecher MD, FCCMG (Fellow of the Canadian College of Medical Geneticists) and Professor Emeritus, Molecular Biology and Genetics, and Director Emeritus, School of Human Biology, University of Guelph, gave a public presentation in Port Hope regarding the possible health hazards of REM’s proposed Port Hope gasification plant.
Please read his presentation in its entirety, as it is only four pages. Here we will simply re-state his conclusion:
“With a new and untested system such as this one it could take many years to work out the glitches and troubleshoot the problems. If this is allowed to proceed at this time, Port Hope citizens would be the guinea-pigs in an uncontrolled experiment.
Environmental standards for noxious substances and effects are notoriously lax at the best of times, but knowledge about nanoparticles is so new that there are currently no government regulations on release of nanoparticles into the air. In this as in many other cases, governments and government agencies are far behind science, and individual vendors of services are free to pursue their profit interests with no control in respect of human health concerns. In situations such as this it is up to the citizens to take charge themselves.”
2. Case study of Scotgen’s Gasification plant in Scotland.
In 2009, Scotgen, a waste management company, was commissioned to “gasify” more than 20,000 tonnes of hazardous and municipal waste a year in Dumfries, Scotland. As you can see from its website (http://www.scotgenltd.co.uk/), Scotgen claims that it “utilizes the latest and most advanced Pyrolisis and Gasification techniques to convert waste into energy” and that the plant in Scotland is “Europe’s most advanced waste to Energy facility.”
However, the plant has a record of repeatedly emitting toxic emissions beyond its regulatory limit, as reported in a July 2012 story in the Herald Scotland entitled “Cancer Fears Threaten Incinerator Plan” (link provided above). Excerpt below:
Cancer Fears Threaten Incinerator Plan
“A series of highly toxic emissions from Scotland’s newest waste incinerator in breach of safety limits are threatening to upset plans to build similar controversial plants across the country.
An energy-from-waste plant at Dargavel in Dumfries has had its operations restricted by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) after it admitted releasing cancer-causing dioxins up to two-and-a-half times permitted levels into the air.
The company that runs the plant, Scotgen, is now facing difficulties obtaining a pollution permit for a second waste incinerator at Dovesdale Farm, near Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire. This proposal has prompted 24,000 objections from local residents and others concerned about the health risks.
Scotgen’s problems are also likely to hamper plans by other companies for another 14 incinerators across Scotland. Most of them have run into fierce opposition from local communities.
Scotgen’s Dumfries plant, commissioned in 2009 to “gasify” more than 20,000 tonnes of hazardous and municipal waste a year at high temperatures, has had a troubled history. Its pollution performance has been condemned as “very poor” by Sepa.
Before the plant was shut down in April 2011, it suffered some 200 breaches of emission limits, two of which were because of dioxins. According to Sepa, it also had 100 “short-term exceedances” and prompted 45 noise complaints.
Problems began again soon after the plant was restarted towards the end of March this year. On May 29, it emitted 0.25 nanograms of dioxins. The permitted limit is 0.1 nanograms.
Sepa ordered that the offending boiler be closed down while the breach was investigated. During trials in June there were a further two dioxin breaches. After further investigations, the plant was allowed to restart last week.
Dioxins are a group of highly dangerous and persistent pollutants produced by combustion. As well as triggering cancer, according to the World Health Organisation they can cause reproductive and developmental problems and damage the immune system…”
Scotgen’s assurances of running a high-tech operation with little to no risk of health hazards is very similar to the assurances that REM has provided. The Scotgen case provides a clear example of a company which convinced government regulators that its technology was safe for use, only to repeatedly violate toxic emissions limits. This generated a massive public outcry, and stigmatized the local community.
Port Hope risks following the same pattern if REM’s proposal becomes a reality. The only way to adequately assess the level of this risk is to look at the track record of REM and its Entech technology. As noted above, REM has no track record as an operator– this would be their first project. Similarly, the Entech technology has no track record in North America or Western Europe. Furthermore, those plants that do use Entech gasification technology (in locations such as Poland and Malaysia) do not process anywhere near the tonnage of waste that REM intends to process in Port Hope.