A group of protesters converged on Connecicut’s capitol city Wednesday to advocate for a policy of “reuse, repair and recycle” when it comes to trash disposal.
Posted 18 August 2011, by David Moran, North Branford Patch (Patch Network), northbranfordpatch.com
(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for two videos associated with this article.)
A group of concerned residents and business owners in Hartford converged on the steps of City Hall Wednesday to protest the presence of the city’s massive trash burning facility, but operators of the plant say getting rid of the facility, and the hundreds of thousands of tons of trash it incinerates each year, is easier said than done.
“Connecticut burns more of its trash than any other state,” Claire Miller of the Toxics Action Center, a Connecticut-based public health organization, said on the steps of City Hall Wednesday morning as she and a group of protesters prepared to present a petition signed by 500 residents and local business owners to the mayor and the City Council asking them to significantly curtail incineration at the Hartford trash-to-energy plant. “Incineration is a major source of known toxins like mercury, nickel, and dioxin-toxins associated with aggravating asthma, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.”
Protesters complained that, aside from being an inefficient and environmentally insensitive disposal method, the presence of the trash incineration plant at 300 Maxim Rd. in Hartford also poses a health hazard and contributes to the city’s staggering asthma rate of more than 40 percent of its residents.
“We are home to the largest trash incinerator in the state, and the fifth largest in the nation, making us Connecticut’s trash capitol,” said Cynthia Jennings, an environmental lawyer with the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, who asked that city leaders push for CRRA to shut down one of the facility’s three boilers by the end of 2012 and move toward a path to zero incineration. “…We’re trying to stop the incineration of trash in Hartford. This is an urban center, and we feel it’s inappropriate to expose so many young children to air pollution to the level that results from incineration.”
The plant is a 24-hour facility that burns about 2,850 tons of trash per day to generate energy, and is fed by 70 towns throughout the state, including Manchester; communities as far away as North Branford and Southbury also send trash to the plant. The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, a quasi-public agency that oversees the bulk of Connecticut’s trash disposal, owns and operates the plant through a private contractor, Covanta Energy.
Paul Nonnenmacher, a CRRA spokesman, said many of the environmental complaints about trash incineration have never been proved true, while it remains one of the most efficient and “environmentally friendly” forms of solid waste disposal because the incineration process is used to generate energy.
“The amount of material that has to go into a landfill after it goes through a trash-to-energy plant is about 10 percent by volume of what it otherwise would be,” Nonnenmacher said. “…If you used fossil fuel to generate the amount of electricity that we’ve generated down at the Mid-Connecticut project over the last 20 years, you would have burned about 20 million barrels of oil, or about 7 million tons of coal, or about 25 million cubic feet of natural gas, and all those fossil fuels are a lot worse for the environment.”
Miller said the state should move toward a “zero waste” solution, an increasingly popular movement that aims to expand recycling, curtail waste and reduce consumption through a philosophy of “reuse, repair, recycle.”
“There are many cities throughout the United States, and internationally, that have set a goal toward ‘zero waste,’” Miller said. “I want to emphasize that it’s a goal; you don’t ever get exactly to zero, but you can get very close.”
But Nonnenmacher said that it would be almost impossible to shut down one of the Hartford plant’s three smokestacks by the end of 2012, because Connecticut is ill equipped to handle the overflow of waste that would result from the 70 towns, including North Branford, serviced by the plant no longer being able to send all their trash to the facility.
“If we shut down one of the boilers you would have to make 250,000 tons of waste per year go away,” Nonnenmacher said. “If you had a magic wand – great. If not, you’d have to find some way to realistically do that.”
Nonnenmacher said that Connecticut’s restrictive policies toward waste disposal has provided the state with few options through the years, and that trash-to-energy incineration was one of the most affordable forms of disposal. He said that trash incineration has never been linked to an increase in asthma rates, either.
“We’ve never seen any evidence linking asthma rates to trash incineration,” Nonnenmacher said. “If there is such evidence, we’d like to see it, and I think the (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) and (the Environmental Protection Agency) would like to see it too.”
But John Steward, a Bolton resident and a professor at the University of Hartford, said he joined the protest Wednesday because he did not want to take any chances with the plant’s presence in the region.
“If you think about it, the prevailing winds blow from the west to the east. Bolton’s on the east part, so anything that goes out that smokestack is coming down to pollute my lungs as well,” said John Steward. “Anything that you don’t recycle, you get to breath again.”
Nonnenmacher noted that CRRA’s single-stream recycling process, which allows people to place all of their recyclables into one container and ends the process of sorting and separating paper from plastic, has greatly increased Connecticut’s recycling rate, which is only expected to further increase in coming years.
“We are doing everything that we can, more than anybody else, to get the state’s recycling up,” he said.
Ed Note: Please visit the original site for two videos associated with this article.