Incinerator's biomedical waste contract extended for one year

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Jan. 6, 2005

"The province has had years to find an alternate method of disposal. The incinerator should be gone now because it's not meeting its requirements"
Marlene Kane

Biomedical waste will continue to burn at the municipality's incinerator for one more year.

The current contract between the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the provincial Health Department - set to expire April 1 - is extended by one year, said Roger Munroe, the municipality's solid waste resource manager.

The incinerator, located off Grand Lake Road in Sydney, has been burning more than 2,000 tonnes of the province's biomedical waste each year since 1998. The total revenue is around $1.2 million annually.

Munroe said the agreement is extended to April l, 2006, even though the incinerator failed to meet provincial emission requirements during a two-week test burn in June for dioxins and furans. "We haven't always met the requirements of our permit," said Munroe.

Since the failed tests, modifications estimated at around $10,000 were made to the incinerator's airflow to reduce the volume of emissions passing through the pollution control system. However, no further testing was done to ensure the changes improved emission results.

And it's not the first time the incinerator failed to meet requirements outlined in its permit. The incinerator's stack emissions for dioxins and furans were also exceeded by more than double in 2002.

Dioxins and furans are of particular importance to environmental regulators because of their extraordinary environmental persistence and capacity to accumulate in biological tissues. As a result, dioxins and furans are slated for virtual elimination under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the federal Toxic Substances Management Policy, and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment's Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances.

Marlene Kane, environmental activist and longtime critic of the incinerator, said it doesn't matter what recommendations are implemented at the facility, the changes aren't improving stack emissions.

Allowing the municipal facility to continue operating while not meeting requirements means the province is being negligent, she continued. "Instead of protecting the community, it's knowingly and unnecessarily exposing this community to toxic emissions," said Kane. "The province has had years to find an alternate method of disposal. The incinerator should be gone now because it's not meeting its requirements."

The annual stack emission tests are done under ideal circumstances, she continued. "On a day-to-day basis exceedances are continuing and we have no idea to what extent because they're not being measured," said Kane. "Maybe the Department of Environment as the regulator and the Department of Health issuing the contract should get together and realize that this isn't an acceptable solution."

Kim Silver, spokesperson for the Department of Health, said an expression of interest will be advertised within a month to find a "combined transportation disposal solution for biomedical waste." A request for proposals will follow and a solution should be in place by the end of 2005, she said.