Incinerator Decision Tabled for Next Month
Opponents from Bristol, Bensalem and Burlington County, N.J., packed a standing- room-only meeting room in Bristol Township Monday night.
"I think (the board) was ambushed tonight," said Don Mobley, a Croydon resident who was the first to speak against the incinerator plan Monday night. "I don't think they were given a clear picture of the true nature of the plan until tonight, and I hope they spend the next month getting fully educated."
Representatives from Route 13 Bristol Partners are seeking variances that will allow them to construct a hazardous waste incinerating facility with two smoke stacks below the 80-foot limit at the industrial park that also houses a former Rohm & Haas plant now managed by Dow Chemical. The King of Prussia-based company also wants permission to create an adjacent staging area/parking lot that will increase the site's impervious surface ratio to 72 percent, 1 percent over the allowable limit.
Consultants hired by Route 13 Bristol Partners to manage the construction, planning, training and safety protocols gave testimony on what types of materials will be disposed, which regulatory bodies will have oversight on operations and safety procedures in place for spillage or other accidents.
According to Mike Logan, owner of Compliance Plus in Hatboro, no explosives, radioactive or medical waste will be burned by the two natural gas-fueled kilns generating heat between 1,600 and 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Logan told the board that at maximum capacity, the plant will process approximately 60 tons of chemicals including alcohols and solvents, medicines and pharmaceuticals, aerosols, pesticides/herbicides and adhesives.
The staging lot will accept up to 12 tractor trailer loads per day, filled with either burnable drums or steel barrels that will be cleaned and recycled. The trucks will be weighed and the contents inspected and verified, then brought over to the incinerator facility. The facility is split into three sections, the 12,000-square-foot processing room, a 14,000-square-foot staging area where the barrels would be housed and randomly tested, and a two-floor administrative office.
According to testimony, after the barrels are approved for incineration, they would be placed inside the thermal processing kilns. The reduced solid residue would be collected, quenched and transported to a hazardous waste landfill in upstate New York. Residue gases will flow through filter flues designed to scrub the emissions and clean them per state and federal environmental protection standards. Logan told the board that the smoke stacks would emit per year five tons of nitrous oxide, .3 tons of particulate matter and .3 tons of carbon monoxide created by fuel burning.
However, one topic that many in the packed meeting felt was glossed over concerned the residues created by combusting the actual chemicals. Representatives from Route 13 Bristol Partners could not definitively say what additional byproducts would be produced from the process, in large part because the actual equipment is still in the design phase.
Mike Ewall, a Bensalem native and founder of the Energy Justice Network in Washington, D.C., gave a powerpoint presentation about incinerators that claimed a host of dioxins and heavy metals such as mercury are common in emissions. He said that state regulatory agencies only test for these chemicals once a year during a six-hour period, giving the plant advanced notice that allows operators to prepare for the test.
"That's like having a speed trap set up once a year with signs warning drivers to slow down," said Ewall.
Speakers representing Bristol residents, Bensalem Township and officials in Burlington County, N.J., said there were too many unanswered questions surrounding the project, including security at the staging area, environmental protections and monitoring of the emission contents. Bristol and New Jersey residents also wanted time to make public comments after the professionals cross-examined the consultants, prompting Clayton to make a motion to table the proceedings until the Feb. 10 hearing.
"We will be back here next month," said Joseph Howarth, a member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders for Burlington County. "I feel very positive that it has been postponed. There is not enough information about something that will impact 55,000 residents in Bristol and 450,000 people in Burlington. I think the zoning board has been kept in the dark."
The Burlington County Freeholders passed a resolution in December calling on the zoning board to reject the application, and a group of representatives led by former New Jersey Governor James Florio attended Monday's meeting to add some muscle to the resolution.
After giving testimony as a consultant on safety protocols and procedures, Pennsylvania State Representative Frank Farry expressed sympathy for the incinerator opponents but stated that the project is adhering to regulatory standards.
"From a public safety standpoint, I am comfortable with where they are," said Farry. "There has been a lot of speculation and judgment passed before the process has moved forward. This is something that would be developed on the same site of a chemical plant. They are not putting it next to a daycare."
Ewall expressed confidence that even if the variances are eventually approved, the project would be stopped.
"There is no such thing as a done deal," said Ewall. "These facilities vey rarely get approved because nobody wants them. The biggest factor to stopping them is public involvement at the local levels, not from the permitting process at the state levels."