Incinerator emissions double the allowable limit

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Nov. 19, 2005

The municipality's incinerator continues to spew unacceptable amounts of dioxins and furans into the environment, but not for long.

With just six weeks left until the Grand Lake Road incinerator's flame is snuffed out, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has learned that stack test results taken in June show that levels of dioxins and furans are more than double the province's allowable limit.

Environmental activist criticizes province

However, the failure isn't going to change how the municipality destroys its solid waste between now and Dec. 31. "It doesn't mean a whole lot," said Roger Munroe, the municipality's solid waste resource manager. "We already made a decision to close it."

The Department of Environment and Labour instructed the municipality to repeat its stack test of emissions after failing an annual two-week test burn in June 2004.

The additional testing followed modifications totalling $10,000 aimed at improving on dioxin and furan emissions.

Although the work did improve outcomes slightly, emission samples taken in June showed that the stacks still emitted 171 picograms per metre cubed of dioxins and furans instead of the allowable limit of 80 picograms. "We have to continue on," said Munroe. "We really have no choice in the matter."

Picture of Kane by McMullin
Marlene Kane, an environmental activist and longtime critic of the incinerator, said governments have ignored the health and safety of nearby residents since the incinerator accepted the province's biomedical waste in 1997. "They allowed the incinerator to continue operating even though it failed stack testing four out of the past five years," said Kane. "The Department of Environment (and Labour) and Department of Health failed to protect the residents of this community."

She points to the province's decision to burn its biomedical waste at the Sydney incinerator as the reason behind allowing the violations to continue without penalty.

The agreement generates $1 million in revenue for the municipality each year. "The incinerator should have been shut down five years ago," said Kane.

The municipality plans to transport its garbage to Guysborough County beginning Jan. 1, 2006. About $700,000 is budgeted to decommission the incinerator once it's closed.

Incinerator workers will be transferred to other municipal jobs or be offered early retirement.

The municipality still owes about $9.5 million on the facility and will pay that loan until 2014. The municipality is also 11 years into a 20-year purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power Inc. Terminating the contract now may result in a $700,000 payment to the power company.