This week's the Living at the Barricades Podcast investigates the proposed Durham-York waste incinerator. We hear from Dave Renaud of the CAW Durham Regional Environment Council and air pollution meteorology expert Dr. Henry S. Cole.
Listen to this week's show online.
Last week, Durham and York Councils announced a partnership to build a garbage incinerator. The plant is to be located in Clarington on a 12-hectare site located near the Darlington nuclear plant, south of Highway 401 on the banks of Lake Ontario. If built, the facility would be the first new trash incinerator in the Toronto Region since the Brampton incinerator was built over 15 years ago.
Incinerators already operate in Lake Ontario communities at sewage plants, hospitals and industrial facilities. The announcement in Durham adds to a growing list of Ontario communities that want to increase the burning by incinerating municipal garbage. In addition to Durham, the Regions of Hamilton, Niagara and Halton are also seriously considering the option.
While new proposals for burning are coming forward, a massive year-round "alternative fuels" waste incineration project is under investigation in Bath, Ontario. The LaFarge cement plant proposes to burn tires, plastics and other garbage. That proposal was approved by Ontario's Ministry of Environment in 2006. Through the work of Waterkeeper and other concerned environmental and community groups the proposal is now subject to an extensive environmental review hearing. The hearing will assess the strengths and weaknesses of the pro-incineration lobby and determine the environmental consequences of burning. Until this hearing completes its task and issues findings, any claim that technology can produce clean burning incinerators is subject to serious doubt and debate.
Some important facts that Waterkeeper is learning from its involvement in the Lafarge permitting process:
- Incinerators create toxic ash waste that still needs to be disposed. The more effective facilities are at preventing toxins from discharging into the air, the more waste is generated and collected that needs to be disposed of in the ground. Garbage is not ashless like natural gas.
- Incinerators release mercury, dioxin and furans into the environment and these toxins gets into our air, drinking water and food. Lake Ontario communities already have been over-burdened with these toxins. More incinerators will mean weakened air quality, weakened water quality and a more degraded environment.
Waterkeeper is acutely aware of the two preferred arguments of the incinerator lobby: that there are no other options for waste disposal and that incineration has wide public support. Both these arguments are fundamentally flawed and avoid getting at the real issue â€“ how do we protect our water and air from pollution? Without informed public debate where distinctions can be made based on independent scientific study, ruling out alternatives and polling the population for a "pro" versus "anti" resolution is meaningless. Fortunately, we have hearing processes in Ontario, like the Environmental Review Tribunal underway in Bath, that actually promote informed public debate through independent review and intensive scrutiny of the proposal at hand.