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Curran questions impact of bio-mass generating plant in East Springfield

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD State Rep. Sean Curran has asked the state's commissioner of environmental protection to investigate a proposed bio-mass plant that has been proposed for East Springfield.

Curran told Reminder Publications on Friday he is concerned about the possible health effects not just on Springfield, but on Chicopee and Ludlow as well.

Bio-mass facilities generate electricity by burning wood waste. A proposed bio-mass plant in Russell has met with opposition from resdients, and health and environmental activists. Although some bio-mass plants burn scrap wood created by industries, the one planned for Springfield would incinerate demolition waste.

The following is Curran's letter:

Commissioner Laurie Burt

Department of Environmental Protection

One Winter Street

Boston, MA 02108

Dear Commissioner Burt,

I write to you today in regards to the proposed construction and debris incinerator to be located in the East Springfield neighborhood. In my opinion, before this project moves forward, the Department of Environmental Protection needs to answer several questions.

First, if the state of New Hampshire outlawed construction and demolition incinerators, is your office sure that the proposal to build one in Springfield is safe?

Secondly, will our air quality be diminished with the 40 or more trucks, hauling 900 or more tons daily of demolition material through our neighborhood?

Third, how negative an impact will this incinerator have not only on Springfield's air quality, but also that of the surrounding communities?

Fourth, will your office notify the City of Chicopee and the towns of Wilbraham, East Longmeadow, and Ludlow of the potential environmental impact on the region's air quality?

Fifth, how confident is your office that the stack scrubbers will render the emissions from this plant harmless?

As you know, New Hampshire banned this very type of incinerator that is proposed for Springfield. Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire stated in his testimony opposed to these plants that, "the burning of toxic construction and demolition debris poses an unnecessary and unacceptable danger to the health of New Hampshire's people and the health of our environment."

It's obvious from Governor Lynch's comments that he is absolutely opposed to construction and demolition debris incinerators. Before the D.E.P. approves this incinerator plant, we need clear and convincing evidence that the Governor's assumptions about the toxicity of these plants are incorrect.

Furthermore, two years ago the city placed the Performance Food Group just down the road from this proposed incinerator. This company is located on Roosevelt Avenue across the street from Central High School. There are probably 100 big rigs at that company alone. If we are going to add another 45 trucks carrying construction debris from old homes, I would like to see a study done on the impact of the increase in traffic on the neighborhood's air quality.

The rational of proponents of this plant is that the incinerator pollutants will be rendered harmless because the air will be filter through a 27 story scrubber stack. Proponents also suggest that the pollutants will be released so high in the atmosphere that the neighborhood immediately surrounding the plant will not be affected.

I would hope the D.E.P. will also look into the effectiveness of these scrubbers. Is this technology consistent with that used in other incinerators nationwide? Is your office confident that the scrubbers will keep the air 100% safe? Is this scrubber stack appropriate to protect the air quality of the City of Springfield and our surrounding communities?

The incinerator is located in a high population center. The City of Springfield has 150,000 residents and the towns surrounding Springfield have over 100,000. If in fact the pollutants do not settle in Springfield, is there a potential for them to settle in the City of Chicopee or the towns of Ludlow, Wilbraham, and East Longmeadow? Is there going to be a study done to measure the impact on these communities?

Preliminary approval of this project was given by the Springfield City Council. There is significant support for the project based on the fact that the incinerator will be used to make electricity. And while that is a worthy goal, it certainly is not worth that benefit if one of the bi-products of this plant is diminished air quality for the City of Springfield. Certainly, when the state of New Hampshire banned these plants, I believe that we have to move forward with extreme caution.

I have enclosed a letter from the American Lung Association regarding a similar incinerator project in Russell. It is obvious that the A.L.A. has serious concerns about that project.

In closing, I am looking forward to working with you as your department continues to study the impact of this project. I would also, schedule permitting, like to invite you to come visit Springfield to further discuss the impact of this plant upon our city and region. If you have any questions or concerns in regards to this correspondence, do not hesitate to call me at 413-746-2728.