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Public Health Council clarifies position on proposed biomass plant

Date: 1/4/2010

Jan. 4, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The Springfield Public Health Council has released its formal opinion on the proposed biomass plant for Page Boulevard that would use construction and demolition waste as fuel in a letter dated Dec. 18, 2009 to state environmental officials.

The permitting process for the plan was halted recently by the Department of Environmental Protection to allow a health impact study requested by the Department of Public Health.

The council's letter goes on record in support of the efforts of Associate Commissioner of Public Health Suzanne Condon to have an impact study undertaken and made the following recommendations:

"The Springfield Public Health Council, as an independent entity charged with protecting the health of our residents, is eager to support the health impact study and participate in the framing of the term 'acceptable risk' as it relates to the city, given the health disparities that currently exist."

"The council also supports the need for an environmental impact study as recommended by [Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs] Ian Bowles."

The Public Health Council is charged with protecting the public health of the citizens of Springfield. With that responsibility, we formally request to be part of the group analyzing the results of the study."

"The council affirms that this project rightfully should have come before this body as it relates to the site selection. Based on the environmental justice status of the community, we would have required a different set of criteria than what was required under the current process."

The letter was signed by Helen Caulton-Harris, the city's commissioner of health and human services, and City Councilor Timothy Allen, the chair of the public health council and stated the council was "deeply concerned about public health issues raised by the public . and the proponents did not, in the opinion of the council, adequately address those issues."