Port Hope residents worry about garbage incinerator – rebuttal

We have prepared the following notes to rebut the misinformation that REM’s president, Mr. Lewis Staats provided to the author in this Toronto Star article by Raveena Aulakh titled “Port Hope residents worry about garbage incinerator”.

Published in the Toronto Star on Saturday January 4, 2014.


1. Entech-Rem states that they began working on a plan to build a “material recycling and gasification facility”.
This statement misleadingly gives the impression that the company would be doing re-cycling. It would not. The company does indicate in its Environmental Screening Report (ESR) that some waste would be diverted to recycling, but it has presented no strategy or plans for recycling. The published floor-plan for the plant shows no recycling facility and the list of “Facility Main Components” given in the “Information Package” (June 19 2013) does not include a recycling facility. Furthermore, calculations show that in order to meet its predictions for energy production very little could even be diverted to recycling elsewhere. The company has no expertise or previous experience in recycling. The plant as planned would do nothing else than incinerate.

2. The company confirms Terry Hickey’s statement that Entech-REM has never built or operated an incinerator or waste disposal plant in North America. But the company fails to point out that in fact, neither the company REM nor the company ENTECH has ever built or operated an incinerator or waste management plant anywhere in the world. The Australian company ENTECH developed the technology, but its use in various sites in the far East and Poland has been undertaken by other companies using the ENTECH technology, not by ENTECH.

3. Re nanoparticles, Mr. Staats dismissed the health concerns. Nanoparticles…are everywhere, he said.
Nanoparticles are not everywhere. They are a source of pollution, and wherever they are emitted steps should be taken to prevent this emission. But to compare the emission of nanoparticles made by wood-burning stoves, lawnmowers and so on to that of incinerators shows an astonishing lack of understanding of the science.
First, the nanoparticles that incinerators produce exist in a unique mix of probably some 250 poisons which are NOT produced by lawnmowers and such, and most of these poisons are potential carcinogens (cancer-producers), such as dioxins, arsenic, lead, mercury and so forth. The nanoparticles of incinerators adhere to and pick up these carcinogens and carry them in to people’s internal organs such as the heart and the brain. Lawnmowers do not produce dioxins or other carcinogens. Therefore while incinerator nanoparticles carry carcinogens into the brain, lawnmower nanoparticles do not.
Second, the amount of nanoparticles produced by incinerators is many billions of times more than all the other sources put together. It is ridiculous to compare the nanoparticle production of a tiny lawnmower or barbecue, functioning occasionally for an hour or so, to that of a massive incinerator churning them out by the billions, every second, all day long, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Even the industrial sources of nanoparticles produce incomparably smaller amounts.
Third, there are good reasons to have lawnmowers, barbecues and even printers and power plants – they serve a purpose in society and there are no alternatives, but in this day and age of the alternative of waste recycling technologies it can not reasonably be argued that polluting incinerators have a place in an environmentally conscious society.

Fourth, the existence of other sources of pollution is not a reason to have an extra and unnecessary source. This is like saying that because we have theft and robbery in society we may as well also have murder.

4. Mr. Staats is quoted as saying that “the facility would use efficient low-temperature thermal conversion technology to convert waste to energy-rich synthetic natural gas, a process know as gasification. The gas will be utilized to produce electrical energy..”.
First, low-temperature conversion technology is even more harmful to the environment than high-temperature incineration, as some of the carcinogens can get destroyed at higher temperatures.
Second, the gas produced, syngas, is not energy rich – its energy potential is about one third to one half that of natural gas. Furthermore, Wikipedia, in its section on Gasification, states that the energy derived from converting syngas to electric power is counteracted by significant power consumption in the waste preprocessing, and the consumption of large amounts of pure oxygen.
Third, there is no such thing as “synthetic natural gas” – something that is “synthetic” is not “natural”.
Fourth, the synthetic gas syngas that is produced differs from natural gas not only in being less energy efficient, but also in containing carbon monoxide, which is a deadly poison, hydrogen, which is highly explosive, and the slew of poisonous substances that are given off as emissions when the syngas is burned in the second stage of the gasification process.
Also, the Ontario Power Authority has advised our group that Energy from Waste technologies using municipal waste as a fuel do not qualify as a “renewable energy source” by regulation and are not eligible for the Feed in Tariff (FIT) program that is used by other companies to contract selling their power to the grid.

5. Mr. Staats is quoted as stating that the technology developed by ENTECH “has been successfully used for more than 20 years in more than 150 installations in Australia, Southeast Asia and Poland”.
The company has notoriously misled both the public and the decision-making agencies about its so-called track record. This statement of Mr. Staats’s gives the impression that there are numerous installations in Australia, whereas in fact there are no ENTECH plants in Australia, the home country of ENTECH. The company has made much of its show-piece plant said to be in Hong Kong, but in fact their Hong Kong plant closed down many years ago. Nor do they inform us of how many others of their “more than 150 installations” have also been closed down.

6. Entech-Rem is cited as having stated that their facility would offer “about 35 jobs when operational”.
First, based on a web search of numbers of employees in incinerator plants world wide this figure is very questionably high.

But more importantly, no mention is made of the jobs that would probably be lost if this incinerator were ever to materialise. The proposed site of the plant is in prime farm land, where organic and other sensitive forms of agriculture are practised; many farmers have clearly indicated that they would not be able to continue their activities if an incinerator were to be allowed in the area.