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Defeating incinerators one community at a time

By Linda Gasser

INCINERATION CAMPAIGN UPDATE: SUMMER 2012


Beating back burner proposals

Last fall, Meaford citizens banded together and educated themselves, their community and their town council about what waste incineration would mean for their community. Residents reached out to waste activists including those at Prevent Cancer Now. They organized community information meetings and invited speakers who brought forward evidence around the potential for serious health and financial impacts of incineration. Liz Benniean, founder of the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition put on her “Organize to Win” seminar and local residents became a political force that watchdogged their council for months. Further to our spring update article, at their April 23rd meeting, Meaford council voted to snuff out the Partner’s Energy Group project.

At the end of June, after years of speculation about Brant County’s waste plans and wondering if waste incineration would be an option, citizens learned that incineration is off the table as Brant County considered future waste plans. Ella Haley and Sustainable Brant were instrumental in raising awareness and hosted information sessions for the community. Recently, the South Central Ontario Region Economic Development Corporation (SCOR EDC) a regional partnership comprised of the County of Brant, Elgin County, Middlesex County, Norfolk County and Oxford County, hosted Covanta Energy and other incinerator vendors. While this June position is indeed good news, citizens will have to remain vigilant as the situation may change.

In British Columbia, Mark Biagi and colleagues persuaded Powell River town council to turn down Wheelabrator’s plan to burn Metro Vancouver’s garbage in their community. While Council’s vote might not stop Wheelabrator, it sends a strong signal that Powell River is not a willing host to burning Metro Vancouver garbage. Metro Vancouver is considering both “in region” and “out of region” communities to host their planned incinerator.

Mark and his community presented a Zero Waste Strategy as being the most efficient, least risky and logical “front end” option to burning garbage, one that is consistent with Powell River’s plans for a sustainable and healthy community. Zero Waste encompasses a variety of waste reduction and resource recovery initiatives that could be tailored to meet the needs of individual communities.

Mill towns in British Columbia

Mill towns across B.C. should remain vigilant as incinerator vendors eye their communities and as federal subsidies shift fuel mix at operating mills. Covanta has found a potential incinerator site in Gold River. The Campbell River community has heard musings about a possible proposal at the Catalyst Mill site. Howe Sound Pulp and Paper is looking at processing various types of waste at their site to generate power.

Evidence shows incineration is the riskiest of disposal options because there is the burning of waste and landfilling of ash residues. Fly ash is hazardous and bottom ash is laced with toxic residues. Incinerators can emit beyond permitted levels and ash disposal remains a huge concern.

Dioxins, a group of persistent organic pollutants that are carcinogens, cause a range of health impacts and incinerators remain the primary source of dioxins in Canada. Dioxins are found in incinerator emissions and ash residues and can deposit in sediments in water bodies.

Disappointing News in Durham Region

Durham Clear filed a legal challenge in 2011 because the incinerator site in Courtice did not have the proper zoning, effectively taking on a challenge that really should have been taken on by the council of the Municipality of Clarington, the host community to the Durham-York incinerator.

In June 2012, Durham Clear announced that they had to abandon their fight for a number of reasons including lack of funds. Covanta, the design-build operator of the Durham-York incinerator, wanted Durham Clear to post a security in the event Durham Clear lost the challenge and Durham Clear appealed that ruling.

Durham Clear continues to advocate for Zero Waste in Durham and Ontario. Over the last two months, the president of Durham Clear and a number of residents brought forward evidence showing that waste volumes in Durham are declining, that incinerator project costs are increasing and that the incinerator project will be incompatible with waste reduction and diversion.

Cozy relationships

Ottawa’s Plasco Energy Corporation is attempting to gain a foothold in Salinas Valley, California. Bradley Angel of GreenAction for Health and Environmental Justice recently released excerpts of emails between Plasco and the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority and the California governor’s office that seem to show that cozy relationships appear to exist in California, as they did in Ottawa when that city council voted to enter into a long term agreement with Plasco last December.

Florian Levesque -the passing of a tireless activist

The global environmental community lost a tireless and inspirational warrior with the passing of Florian Levesque on March 23rd. Florian, together with other tenacious colleagues brought Bennett Environmental to their knees and ensured that hazardous waste would not be burned in Belledune. His and their tenacity, commitment and energy remains an inspiration to many and serves to show that even if an incinerator were built somewhere the project can ultimately be defeated if citizens remain focused and vigilant.

The Story of Change

Annie Leonard, whose film “The Story of Stuff” received global acclaim, recently released “The Story of Change“, which argues that citizens – not shoppers – hold the key to a better future. “The Story of Change urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.”

The people and communities described earlier in this article all took action. Take the quiz at the end of the film to discover what kind of “change-maker” you are and share the results with your friends and community.

Zero Waste is the alternative to burning

Communities wishing to avoid having burners adopted by their councils or foisted on them by various levels of government will need to learn about develop clear messaging around Zero Waste as a viable alternative to burning and landfilling. The term is often misused by the waste industry and decision-makers need to be educated at all levels. What is also needed is appropriate and consistent legislation from upper tier governments to create a level playing field and to end all subsidies to industries that are rewarded for burning.

Updated Incineration Tool Kit

We have updated our tool kit. Please check back periodically as more updated resources will be posted. For more information contact Linda Gasser.

Linda Gasser is an incineration campaigner and has played a major role in PCN’s Ban Incineration Campaign.

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Also in the Summer 2012 Issue of An Ounce

Published: August 15th, 2012