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Epa Orders 18-month Ban On New Incinerators

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EPA Orders 18-Month Ban On New Incinerators

Envotech, MCATS Vow To Fight On

By Phillis Engelbert

Area residents can breathe easier thanks to a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ruling which places an 18-month moratorium on the issuance of new permits for operation of hazardous waste incinerators. The EPA ruling delays, but does not totally dismantle, Ypsilanti Township based Envotech's hazardous waste disposal plans.

The news of the moratorium was welcomed by area environmentalists, particularly members of Milan-based Michigan Citizens Against Toxic Substances (MCATS), who have been fighting the construction of the hazardous waste complex in their community since it was proposed.

The incinerator, according to Envotech's plans, would burn waste 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to process the 75 truckloads of waste expected each business day. In the proposed operation, Envotech would incinerate or landfill 400,000 tons of hazardous waste per year for 20 years. Environmentalists consider both burying and burning to be unsafe methods of hazardous waste disposal.

Following the EPA's announcement, Envotech spokesperson Dan Gilbert Claimed that Envotech is still going forward with the application process. the process all began in 1987 when Envotech proposed to build a hazardous waste landfill, incinerator, and deep-injection well on a nearly one-sqaure mile parcel of land in Augusta Township just east of Milan.

On May 26, 1992 Envotech submitted its initial application to the Mich. Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) for the construction of the incinerator, which the DNR ruled "administratively incomplete." At present, Envotech has yet to submit its completed permit application. Before the passage of the moratorium, it was predicted that the permitting process would take two years after the DNR received Envotech's revised application. Now it appears it will take even longer.

Envotech's waste complex proposal comes amid a host of problems with their current operations. Among their disposal sites which are now sources of contamination, is the landfill on Arkona Road - the site Envotech proposes to expand for the hazardous waste facility. The Arkona road dump is ranked the 17th-worst contamination site in the state and the level of clean-up necessary is now being contested in the courts. In addition, contamination has been discovered at Envotech's landfills in Flat Rock and on willow Run Creek in eastern Washtenaw county -both of which are on the state's Act 307 list of contaminated sites.

Environmentalists, while pleased with the moratorium, would like to see legislation that goes one step further. "We're looking for a lifetime of clean air, clean water, and safe environment - not just 18 months," commented Deborah Keefer, spokesperson for MCATS. "We would like to see legislation put in place for the enforcement of this EPA directive. We'd like to see a permanent moratorium on incineration."

"MCATS feels the EPA directive is largely a result of grassroots efforts across the nation," Keefer added. "We're pleased that the EPA acknowledges there's serious problems with incineration."

Keefer and others in her organization encourage the passage of the "Pollution Prevention and Incineration Alternatives Act of 1993" (known as the Richardson Bill) and the Holden Amendment to the Solid Waste Disposal Act, both pending in Congress. The former would put in place permanent policies to reduce amounts of hazardous waste produced, as well as to limit the incineration of hazardous and municipal solid waste. Specifically, it would require a moratorium on the siting of new incinerators through 1997 and mandate a 50% reduction of hazardous waste produced over a five-year period. The latter would prevent the sitting of hazardous waste facilities within two miles of a federal prison - particularly relevant in this case due to Arkona Road's proximity to the Milan Federal Penitentiary.

Opponents Cite Health Risks

Envotech's former president Walter Tomyn, last year told The Ann Arbor News that there would not be any health impact due to their proposed incinerator. However, Envotech is itself listed 68 known and suspected carcinogens in its incinerator permit application, among them: dioxin, chloroform, benzene, arsenic, thrichlorethylen and DDT.

Those in the vicinity of the proposed Augusta Township site list several potential health and environmental problems, should the applications for the incinerator, landfill and deep injection well eventually be approved.

Literature produced by MCATS states concerns about health risks. "Over 14,000 people live within a three mile radius of the proposed site of the Augusta incinerator and landfill," one statement reads. It goes on to discuss the proximity of the Milan Federal Penitentiary, at which several thousand inmates are housed. "In the event of a serious toxic problem at the incinerator an immediate crisis would occur at the penitentiary and in the community. There are too many prisoners for them to be safely moved during such a crisis," reads the statement.

Area Residents Fight On

On a drive through Milan, one quickly learns that an environmental battle is raging. Judging from the number of signs dotting residential lawns that read: "Don't Waste our Future: No Toxic Dump or Incinerator permitting process will now give members of MCATS even more time to organize community opposition.

The Ann Arbor city limit is just 11 miles from the site, yet Ann Arborites have been slower to respond. The issue hasn't been ignored entirely - former Mayor Liz Brater voiced her opposition to the waste complex, as did the Ann Arbor City Council. Recently -elected Mayor Ingrid Sheldon also opposes it. Last winter, MCATS members brought their educational slide show to five Ann Arbor locations. According to Keefer, a handful of those in attendance have become very involved in the issue, but MCATS would like to get more support from Ann Arbor residents.

Here's how you can help:

Contact MCATS at 43X-DUMP to get involved in grassroots efforts.

Press the Ann Arbor City Council and Mayor Sheldon to take a more active role in opposing the facility.

Write Governor Engler and urge him to prevent the construction of the Envotech facility.

Write or call Congressman William Ford about the Richardson Bill and Holden Amendment, Ford can be reached at 106 E. Washington, Ann Arbor, MI 48104: phone 741-4210

Attend EPA hearings on the matter. The next hearing date is not yet set, but may be within the next couple of months.


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