[This letter was signed by PBCEC, along with dozens of other organizations and scientists, and sent to:]
Donato Viggiano, MD
St. Lucie/Okeechobee Medical Society
P.O. Box 13318
Ft. Pierce, FL 34979
The letter below continues to acquire individuals and organizations opposed to the Plasma Arc incinerator in St. Lucie County, FL.
We, the undersigned, oppose the proposed plasma arc incinerator for St. Lucie County because of related health, economic and environmental concerns.
Plasma arc incineration is an unsafe and unproven technology for the commercial processing of municipal solid waste. Emissions data (which has not been independently verified) gathered from the plasma-arc incinerator in Utashanai, Japan by the company Shimadzu Techno-Research Inc. shows emissions of dioxin , the most-toxic known man-made substance. In addition, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in their Whitepaper on the Use of Plasma Arc Technology to Treat Municipal Solid Waste says that there is “considerable uncertainty” about the quality of the syngas and slag produced by plasma arc technology, and dioxins and furans can reform at certain temperatures if chlorine is present. .
Studies show higher levels of cancer , and elevated levels of dioxin in the blood of people living near municipal solid waste incinerators when compared to the general population. , , There is no safe level of exposure to dioxin. Known health impacts of dioxin include cancer, IQ deficits, disrupted sexual development, birth defects, immune system damage, behavioral disorders, diabetes and altered sex ratios. As a result, the City of Oakland, California passed a resolution calling for the elimination of dioxin, and listed incinerators as a major source. Claims that the plasma arc facility “will run cleaner than natural-gas based plants” made by the company Geoplasma are not backed by evidence; independently verified emissions data has not been provided to the public for any plasma arc facility commercially processing municipal solid waste.
Given that the facility proposed for St. Lucie County would be more than ten times larger than any other commercial plasma municipal solid waste incinerator in the world, dioxin, furans, mercury and other harmful emissions are of grave concern. If constructed, this facility would be one of the largest incinerators of any kind in the world. We also have serious concerns about the Geoplasma plasma-arc incinerator being sited near the St. Lucie Tropicana orange juice plant. Studies show that high levels of dioxins have been found in food and dairy products produced near incinerators, , demonstrating that the insidious toxic impacts of incinerators are thus as far-reaching as the shipment of that food to other communities. For the safety of residents of St. Lucie and neighboring counties, we ask that, at a minimum, no proposal be considered until independently verified gaseous, solid and liquid emissions data is provided to the public from an operational commercial plasma facility of a comparable size and waste stream.
In addition, there are also economic dangers with the proposed plasma facility. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection in their Whitepaper on the Use of Plasma Arc Technology to Treat Municipal Solid Waste wrote that, “The economics of this technology are not well known”. Geoplasma claims that they will pay for 80% of the facility with energy sales. However, there is no evidence that the facility will be able to sell any electricity to the grid. As one article says, “Geoplasma hopes to do better than the Japanese facility [which it is modeled upon], which generates just enough power for internal consumption.” The cost of the plasma incinerator would be born by St. Lucie residents in the form of high disposal fees and other taxpayer subsidies.
The plasma system would also destroy valuable materials (more than two-thirds of materials will not come from the neighboring landfill), and obstruct efforts to increase recycling. If the county recycled 50% of its waste stream, based on current market prices for glass, paper, metal, plastic, industrial rubber compounds (including tires) and compost, the materials would be worth $20 million annually. Many cities and counties already have achieved this level of recycling and composting. Further, St Lucie County would save another $12.5 million in avoided disposal costs annually. Finally the economy of the county would improve with an additional 500-750 permanent jobs (and an equivalent number of indirect jobs) and dozens of new and expanded small businesses. All of this activity contributes to the local economy's tax base. When looking at the staggering costs of a plasma arc facility, it is important to count the lost opportunity costs from recycling and economic development.
The city of Honolulu investigated plasma arc technology and concluded, “After thorough evaluations, including intensive meetings with the proposers to review technical components of their plans, we concluded that utilizing plasma arc/torch would significantly increase the cost of waste disposal for Oahu and would not provide any environmental advantages to justify such cost.”
As more than 130 organizations including Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Health Care Without Harm have expressed in the No Incentives for Incinerators statement, incinerators of all types—including plasma, pyrolysis and gasification—are a detriment to the climate, the economy, and the health of U.S. communities. To protect health in Florida, we must strengthen waste prevention, recycling and composting programs, and put an end the harmful practice of incineration.
[Get in touch for the list of groups and also an extensive list of resources on waste incineration.]