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Incineration & Evil Intent

  While everyone should certainly know better now, 
  I agree with Sam McClintock's assessment that 
  many incinerator promoters in the 70s and 80s 
  were probably well-meaning.
  As a college student in 1981, I took a course in 
  Solid Waste Management.  The professor in that 
  course was essentially a nice man who was 
  mesmerized by the promise of incinerators, and he 
  passed "the magic" on to all his students.   Our 
  class project for the semester was to "plan" a 
  MSW incinerator for downtown Green Bay, 
  The Professor was absolutely convinced that 
  incinerators were the "Answer."   In fact, I got 
  in quite a bit of trouble asking more than once 
  why we didn't study or discuss recycling.   He 
  stormed at me and said it didn't work --- they 
  had already tried it in Green Bay in the 70s and 
  no one cooperated.   He said our job was to 
  manage the solid waste once it was generated --- 
  the only people still talking about recycling 
  were soft-headed environmentalists.
  Let's face it --- to those who see only the good 
  of incineration there seem to be a lot of 
  benefits:  waste to energy, reduced landfill 
  needs, destruction of pathogens,  high-tech 
  magic, etc.   It seems like the pinnacle of 
  modern, even environmental, answers to solid 
  waste.   It turned waste into a resource.
  And everyone I knew then believed that air 
  pollution control equipment took care of any 
  minor pollution problems.   Everyone 
  assumed "the regulations are strict" --- (THIS IS 
  I remember from that old class that several 
  professors were working together to address the 
  financing, waste flow, siting and other details 
  --- and they were ALL enthusiastic supporters of 
  the project.
  They didn't know any better.   They were missing 
  critical pieces of information.    These 
  professors weren't "evil," but they did have 
  When I was elected County Supervisor and City 
  Alderwoman in 1988, the incinerator was being 
  formally proposed.   But by then, I had read a 
  great deal about incinerator disasters (financial 
  and environmental) across the country and 
  convinced the local government that it was risky 
  and needed more investigation.
  In the meantime, Wisconsin passed a strong 
  recycling law, and Green Bay now has a very 
  successful curb-side recycling program, in 
  addition to a permanent household hazardous waste 
  drop-off site.
  The MSW incinerator never happened, but we're 
  still siting landfills for the remaining waste 
  --- and neighbors of those sites STILL want a 
  MSW incinerator, hoping it will prevent a 
  landfill by their homes.
  (And many of our papermills propose incinerators 
  for their waste sludges....)
  I think we should hold the incineration 
  specialists' feet to the fire, because they 
  surely knew about toxic emissions 
  coming from incinerators.  
  But the less-informed people who supported these 
  projects didn't know any better.   And the 
  majority of people promoting incinerators 
  probably fit in this second category.
  It's inaccurate (and a waste to time) to blame 
  ALL incinerator supporters for evil intent.
  Rebecca Leighton Katers
  Clean Water Action Council of N.E. Wisconsin
  2220 Deckner Avenue
  Green Bay, WI 54302
  Phone:  920-468-4243
  Fax:  920-468-1234
  E-mail:  cwac@execpc.com