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Trash incineration hit at county session

Mark Thompson-Kolar
The Ypsilanti Press

Trash incineration could become a hot topic in Washtenaw County after two Augusta Township officials and others spoke against it at a planning panel sessoin Tuesday.

The opposition to including incineration as an option in the new Solid Waste Management Plan came at a meeting of the county Solid Waste Planning Committe.

The plan, which is in draft form until it is finalized in a few weeks, outlines county garbage handling strategies for the next 20 years. The committee has been reviewing it.

The plan says the county will reduce the amount of garbage over the next 10 years using recycling, composting and sanitary landfills. Long-term plans provide an option to use burning to dispose of waste after 10 years.

Details in the plan say incineration, also called mass-burning, has the advantage of generating money through electricity or steam production and reducing the amount of material that ultimately ends up in a landfill.

Disadvantages listed include high maintenance requirements and technical complexities associated with incinerators.

"I think there's an inherent conflict in a goal that includes composting and mass-burning," said Vice-Chair David Stead.

Hans Posselt, Augusta Environmental Strategy Commission Chair, agreed, saying incinerators are incompatible with recycling because it burns the paper that could be recycled.

The plan does specify that facilities for reclaiming recyclable materials from the garbage could be provided near the incinerator.

Posselt also said, "We're all aware that incinerators release toxins into the air" and the water. It also adds to the greenhouse effect, he said.

Augusta Township Trustee Philip Hemenway presented a letter critical of burning. It said, "Currently, incineration is recognized as a least desirable waste management option by the Toxic Substance Control Commission, MDNR (Michigan Department of Natural Resources), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and others." He praised most of the plan, but recommended that incineration be eliminated as an option.

No one spoke for trash incineration, but Richard Brown, a planning committee member and former Augusta trustee, said, "I'd like to see burning at least as an option," possibly with restrictions. "I'd hate to exclude it completely."

The draft of the plan will go back to the solid Waste Siting Committee, the subcommittee that wrote it. It will meet for discussion in the Department of Public Works Building in Ann Arbor at 7 p.m. next Wednesday. The Planning Committee will discuss the revised draft at its Oct. 26 meeting.

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