New Castle, DE, threatened by tire/plastics incinerator

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New incinerators are effectively illegal in Delaware because:

” (2) No permit may be granted to any incinerator unless: […]   b. Every point on the property boundary line of the property on which the incinerator is or would be located is:

1. At least 3 miles from every point on the property boundary line of any residence;

2. At least 3 miles from every point on the property boundary line of any residential community; and

3. At least 3 miles from every point on the property boundary line of any church, school, park, or hospital.”

(7 Del C Chapter 60 §6003 (c) (2))

This law came about because of bad experience with incinerators in Delaware and because incinerators threaten health and are very seldom a good idea for any purpose.

Among the worst materials to incinerate are tires, which are loaded with all sorts of toxins.  The Energy Justice Network says this:

“It is common knowledge that burning tires in the open is extremely harmful to human health and the natural environment. The fumes emitted are packed with the many toxic chemicals that tires contain (including volatile organic compounds such as benzene, metals such as lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons such as benzo(a)pyrene, and synthetic rubber components such as butadiene and styrene). Additionally, the chlorine content in tires leads to the creation of dioxins and furans (which are extremely toxic chemicals) when tires are burned.”

Only 2 or 3 tire dedicated incinerators are burning in the US, though tires are more often burned in cement kilns and sometimes paper mills.  They don’t have a good history, as one would expect.  For example, in February, the Chicago Tribune reported:

Ford Heights incinerator to close for good

Geneva Energy agrees to shutter controversial tire burner in settlement with U.S. EPA
February 26, 2013|By Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune reporter

 After nearly two decades of pollution problems and financial woes, a tire incinerator in one of Illinois’ poorest communities will close permanently as part of a legal settlement announced Monday by federal authorities.

Mr. Dhaval Shah, doing business as RenewOil Energy, wants to build a tire–and plastic, apparently– incinerator at 78 McCullough Drive in New Castle, Delaware.  He wants to process 40,000 pounds per day of tires, and also, apparently, 6000 gallons per day of used cooking oil.

Within about one-half mine of the proposed location are two schools:  Eisenberg Elementary School (kindergarden to 6th grade) school, and the John G. Leach School.   It is across the street from a public park, and near numerous residential communities including Jefferson Farms, Wilmington Manor, Swanwyck Gardens, Buttonwood, Castle Hills, Holloway Terrace, and Garfield Park.  Many of these communities have historically been subjected to pollution from dumps, incinerators, and other dirty industrial activities.

So how can an incinerator a this site be considered?  Simple!  Pretend it’s not an incinerator.  Instead, it’s a “gasifier.”

Now, upfront, lets recognize that this is basically nonsense.  ALL burning of solids and liquids involves gasification, simply because solids and liquids don’t burn.  They have to be gasified first.  Combustion is a process that occurs in the “gas phase.”

All the documents we received from the DNREC in response to our Freedom of Information Act requests are posted here.

A summary:

The DNREC seems to have gotten involved with applications for this in  project in January of 2013, when Joanna French wrote, on January 9th:  “I just received an application for an incinerator ban applicability decision (attached).”  But, the original application for a “status decision” is dated Feb 22, 2012.  At that time, Shah claimed confidentiality, trying to conceal from the public most of the details of what he wanted to do.  (See the “redacted” application in the files.)  DNREC correctly determined that there was no basis for confidentiality, noting, for example, that “The applicant requested confidentiality on the entire project summary.  However, after reviewing the information provided, the entire project summary, with the exception of three words (3) are verbatim from the tire pyrolysis section of the “Tire Recycling” page on Wikipedia.”  And:  “… the entire process flow diagram and list of equipment is that same as that found  in an online proposal generated by another company …”

In any case the DNREC did not notify the public until July 22, over 6 months later, and after all the negotiations had taken place and Shah had been promised the decision he wanted, and after the decision letter had already been written.

The application is one of the worst I have ever seen.  Green Delaware wrote to the DNRECom July 30, 2013:

On page 6 (Part 3, PROCESS SUMMARY) are made general statements such as “Processes can be either batch or continuous”, “Sometimes a catalyst is used …”, and “…two or three companies have discovered ways….”  These statements seem very general and not a description of the process to be used by the applicants, but rather more of a generic discussion of possible processes.  Did the DNREC make a determination that this is an acceptable “process summary?”  If so, how?

On page 8, Section 4.3, the applicant(s) state “This process is a completely self-contained Process ….”

On page 9 at Section 4.5, the applicant(s) state “There is no combustion or oxidation in entire process.”

Yet, the graphic on page 8 shows a “burner” as item number 1.  Another “burner” is identified as item number 15.  There appear to be stacks (emission points) associated with items 1, 14, and 15, although these are not called out in the graphic or the process description, such as it is.

Likewise, the graphic of a different process (?) on page 10, (“TIRE OIL TO DIESEL …”) identifies at least two “burners” (items 1 and 16), and at least one stack, although not so labeled (above item 13).

Page 14 contains a table entitled “Exhaust after Burning Pyrolysis Gas.”  It gives concentrations and emission rates, but no information is provided as to what feed rates of what materials are associated with these numbers, or even what process is involved.  What is your understanding of the meaning of this table?

Page 7 (Sec 4.1) of the application form says “Explain in detail the technology proposed for this project.  Provide the manufacturer’s information including a contact for the vendor and if the technology has been used or is in use anywhere else….”  Yet there seems to be no information on the use of “the technology” elsewhere.  Please explain how the application can be deemed complete in the absence of this information.

In a May 13, 2013 memo, DNREC engineer Melissa A. Ferree identified 13 concerns including:

“(1) …The application indicates the tire pieces will enter the reactor (No. 2).  However, the diagram provided indicates Unit #2 is the casing.”

“(2) … The appli8cation indicates the tire pieces are fed into Unit #2 through Unit #15, the spiral feeder.  However, Unit #2 on the diagram is the casing and Unit #15 is the burner for combustible gases.”

“(8) … The application states the process is self-contained.  However, both diagrams attached indicate there is a burner … and data relating to the exhaust [emissions].”

Just what are these emissions?   There is not enough information provided to know the whole story, but the emissions admitted to include benzene (a known cause of cancer in humans–toluene, ethylbenzene–classified as a possible carcinogen–,formaldehyde–another known human carcinogen–,oxides of nitrogen, hydrogen sulphide, lead, cadmium–another cancer-causer–and mercury.

In short, the “Renew Oil” incinerator application is a load of crap, patched together from Wikipedia, and other’s promotional nonsense.

So why is all this happening?

Going through the FOIA responses, we found 16 emails from the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) pestering the DNREC about this project, and many more egging on Mr. Shah.  On Feb 20, 2013, for example, DeHaven wrote “The critical first step for this company is to complete the Incinerator Ban Status Decison Application … so that we can … make the determination that it is in fact NOT considered incineration….”

After DNREC initially, and correctly, determined that it WAS ain incinerator, DeHaven wrote:  “Since he and some others from his team had met with Director Levin and me mid-April, concerned about cycle-time and process, I still feel the need to shepherd this company along….”

Does the “Economic Development Office” know, or care, anything about the consequences of bringing a tire/plastic incinerator to Delaware.  Of course not.  DEDO–and Governor Markell, apparently, will advocate for anything, no matter how harmful.  (The reopening of the Delaware City Refinery, for example.)

Note, also, that the person handling this application within the DNREC uses the title “ombudsman,” but the longer version is “Small Business Ombudsman.”  In other words, an advocate for businesses, NOT for the public.

Nevetheless, the DNREC initially decided the incinerator WAS an incinerator, but also told RenewOil to change the wording of its application in order to get a different decision:  “I recommend the Department suggest Renewoil modify and re-submit its application to indicate that it will not combust the condensible gases on site.” (May 13, 2013 memo from Melissa Ferree.)

Mr. Shah did make the change and the DNREC obediently decided the incinerator was no longer an incinerator.  But there is no indication of any actual change in the process.  The change is purely on paper.  The incinerator is just as much an incinerator as it was the first time around.

So what do people need to do at this point?

First, ask the DNREC to extend the abnormally-short public comment period for at least thirty days.

Here are Green Delaware’s comments on the timing:

 Dear Secretary Omara:

Green Delaware asks you to extend the public comment period on the Incinerator Ban Status Decision for the “Renew Oil” plastics/tire incinerator for at least 30 days from today, August 9, 2013.

Green Delaware’s mission is to inform and empower people and communities who might not otherwise be informed and empowered.

The proposed “Renew Oil” tire and plastic incinerator is within one-half mile of two schools (John G. Leach School and  Eisenberg Elementary School ) and numerous communities including Jefferson Farms, Wilmington Manor, Swanwyck Gardens, Buttonwood, Castle Hills, Holloway Terrace, and Garfield Park.  Many of these communities have historically been subjected to pollution from dumps, incinerators, and other dirty industrial activities.  Many are lower-income and high “minority” population.  Thousands of people live in this area from which incinerators are excluded by Delaware law.

The DNREC has known about this project at least since January, but I see no indication that there has been an iota of community outreach.  And this in spite of DNREC having a “Community Involvement Advisory Council,” Environmental Justice policies, etc.  Indeed, your boss, Pat Emory, heads up an “Office of Community Services.”  I do not see any services to these communities in this matter.  I only see services to an out-of-town entrepreneur who shows little concern for anyone but himself.

The public notice was apparently published in the News Journal and the Delaware State News on July 28, 2013, with an ending date of August 9, 2013, giving an abnormally short time period for comment.  (The email notice date is July 21st, but it is not clear that the legal publication occurred at that time.)

Yes, this “status decision” matter is likely preliminary to an air permit proceeding.  But as a practical matter air permits are seldom denied.  I know of only one such denial in the past 20-some years.  So as a practical matter, this status decision is likely the decision point for whether this project may proceed.

I see that Mr. Shah, of Renew Oil, and Ms. DeHaven of the Delaware Economic Development Office, have pestered you relentlessly about this project, and old tires are a recognized problem, but that cannot justify ignoring the law or the interests of the residents of Delaware.

The school managers, the civic associations of the communities, the churches, the community centers, and so on, deserve to know about this project and have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in if they want to.  And given that it is August, when things tend to move more slowly, many orgs skip meetings, people are on vacation, and so on, I think 30 days is a bare minimum and maybe 60 would be better.


Alan Muller

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