Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 106: Ultralocal effort to block medical waste incinerator

What is the problem?
Here in Alamance County we have a medical waste incinerator run by a company called Stericycle that accepts medical waste (think: junk from hospitals like needles, plastics, fabrics, etc) and burns it. When you burn plastic and stuff like that, you release enormous amounts of toxins into the air. This facility in Haw River is one of the largest incinerators in the US [link] and burns waste from 24 states. Lucky us!

Here are some pictures Tony and I took of the facility, located next to Alamance Community College between Graham and Haw River. You can see the twin smokestacks on the left of this picture. (They are easily viewable from I-85 also. Just look to your right as you cross over the exit 150 where the community college is.)

This little, nondescript facility is responsible for pumping out mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, dioxin, furans, beryllium, chlorine, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen chloride, and other air pollutants known to cause cancer, birth defects and developmental disabilities.

Just yesterday when we drove past the facility on I-85 on our way to Richmond, there was smoke pouring out.

What can be done?
The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and the Haw River Assembly invite you to attend the public hearing on the permit renewal for the Stericycle medical waste incinerator on Tuesday, May 25, at 6 p.m. at Alamance Community College (ACC) in the auditorium.

There will also be a community informational meeting this coming Monday, May 17, at 7 p.m. also held at ACC in the auditorium, where we will be giving a brief presentation on the impacts of the incinerator on the health of surrounding communities, and specific issues to be addressed under the permit.

Why should we act on this?
When Annie Leonard spoke at Elon University last month, she said addressing pollution from this specific incinerator should be an important project for our local area because it may be relatively easy to transfer the vast majority of the waste to another, reduced-polluting facility (ex: an autoclave). Why burn waste that is not legally required to be burned? What sense does that make?

1 comment:

  1. I agree! We need to stop incinerating what doesn't need to be incinerated. Hospitals need to re-look at how they are dealing with their waste. The state needs to start encouraging non-burn alternatives which are already available.