Tag Archives: water pollution

Where Rehoboth’s sewage should go is wrong question

This ran in the Cape Gazette this week:

By Alan Muller | Sep 07, 2015

Elisabeth Stoner’s wonderful poem Aug 31 has motivated me to write more about the Rehoboth ocean outfall debate. In my opinion the discussion has missed the key point, which is simple enough:

If the sewage is treated to “drinking water standards,” and the toxins and nutrients and pharmaceuticals are removed, it doesn’t much matter where it goes: into the ocean, into the canal, or into the groundwater (via spray irrigation or rapid infiltration). Or, right back into public water supplies. Adequately treated, it would not do harm and would provide useful volume. Continue reading

Transcript of hearing on the Markell administration’s proposed (non) cleanup of the former Vlasic/Pinnacle pickle packing plant in Millsboro, DE

On December 17, 2013, a public hearing was held in Millsboro.

Here’s the official transcript of the hearing.

Delaware was once known for the high quality of its environmental public hearings.   It’s really sad to see what a joke they have become. Continue reading

Alert 659: Protect our children’s health: Don’t let incinerator pollution back into Delaware

Greendel Alert 659:  Protect our children’s health:  Don’t let incinerator pollution back into Delaware

Update on Ciba’s attempt to bring back incineration
Meeting to promote incinerator being held Thurs. May 28th in Newport, 7:00 pm

“I’m going to oppose any change. If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters”
–Sen Dave McBride

“nothing less is at stake than our health and the health of our children.”
–Alan Muller, Green Delaware

Continue reading

“Biomass Gas and Electric, L.L.C.” project

December 19, 2008

Ms. Susie Caplow
Florida League of Conservation Voters, Floridians Against Incinerators In Disguise,
Panhandle Citizens Coalition, Environmental&Consumer Community Activist and Organizer

Dear Susie:

At your request I reviewed materials related to the “Biomass Gas and Electric, L.L.C.,” project proposed for Tallahassee.  I also had a long and informative conversation with Mr.Al Linero of the Florida DEP Bureau of Air Regulation, who seemed very interested in discussing the project and conveying his point of view.

Bear in mind that these are preliminary impressions and recommendations based on a few hours work.  It’s clear that some very competent people have already been working on this.

First, I address the claim that gasification is something that should be viewed differently from an ordinary burner.

Basically, all combustion is gasification, in the sense that solids and liquids don’t burn.  This can be seen by close observation of a campfire or candle flame or oil burner or whatever.  The essential difference between the type of facility proposed is that the gasification step, to a degree, is physically separated from the combustion step, into different vessels.  That is, simplifying:

Step one:

C & H containing materials such as wood ——> H2 + CO + contaminants and “char” in the “gasifier,”  then

Step two:

H2 + O ——> H2O and CO + O2 ——> CO2 in the combustion turbines and char combustor

There are some engineering advantages to this, such as the ability to burn two-thirds of the material in gas turbines rather than under a boiler, but if we look at a material balance around the overall process, it is really just a burner.  The overall results are the same.

The process is noticeably more complex than a conventional steam power plant of the sort that has evolved over the last several hundred years, and is similar to an IGCC coal plant.  It *may* have lower air emissions but is permitted under the same criteria, so it doesn’t have to.

The draft air permit describes a facility with three main burners:

(1)     A “char combustor” with a rated input of 124 million BTU (British Thermal Units) per hour.  (page 9 of the draft permit).  This is a solid fuel burner.

(2)     Two combustion turbines (“gas turbines”), each with a rating of 147 million BTU per hour (page 15 of the draft permit)  These, obviously, are the “gas” burners.

The emission limits for these are not given in entirely comparable terms, but I can see that the “char combustor” is allowed to emit
10 pounds per hour (each) of particulate matter, NOx, and carbon monoxide. (page 10)

The combustion turbines (both of them together, I think) are allowed to emit 17.2 pounds per hour of carbon monoxide, 17.2 pounds per hour of NOx, and 10 pounds per hour of particulate matter. (page 15-16)

So we can see that this facility is not entirely a gas burner.  Almost one-third of the heat input, and more than one third of the air emissions, come from burning solid materials.

It is also interesting that the carbon monoxide emission limits for the combustion turbines are 17.2 pound per hour on BPG (“biomass product gas”) but 12.1 on natural gas. (page 15)   Similarly, the limits for NOx are 17.2 pounds per hour on BPG and 8.8 pounds per hour on natural gas.  This does not seem to support any claims that the BPG is a fuel comparable in cleanliness to natural gas (!).

Overall emissions

(I am simply taking this information from the “public notice of intent,” which has a cover letter dated October 24, 2008)
(If this wraps and becomes garbled in the email, look at the public notice on line at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/Air/permitting/construction/tallahassee/BGENOTICE.pdf )

Pollutants Estimated Emm. (TPY) Potential Emm (TPY)
Carbon Monoxide (CO)                            204                     231
Nitrogen Oxides (NOX)                           197                     214
Particulate Matter (PM/PM10)        114/114                 156/156
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)                              83                        83
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)     18                        18
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP)            <5                        <5
———————-                        —-                    ——
total tons per year                               621                     707
total pounds per year                      1,242,000               1,414,000

Points to note:

The “potential to emit” is what the facility could put out without violating its permit and that is the most important number to use.  Sometimes facilities claim that their “expected” emissions are far less, but that is not the case here:  the “potential is 1.4 million pounds per year and the “estimated,” or “expected” is 1.2 million pounds per year.

To put this in plain terms, the applicants say they expect to belch out over 1.2 million pounds of health-damaging air pollutants every year (3400 pounds per day), and would be allowed to belch out over 1.4 million pounds per year (3900 pounds per day).  This rounds to two tons per day of air pollutants.

There is a lot more to be done to fully understand this permit.  For example, the proposal is to maintain on the site an inventory of 10,000 to 14,000 tons (28 million pounds) of “wet biomass.” (page 6)  This would apparently be kept in covered piles.  There is considerable potential for emissions of hazardous and smelly air pollutants, as well as mold spores and allergens, from such an inventory, especially in the warm and humid climate of Florida.  There is also a possibility of spontaneous combustion which could be hard to extinguish and would be very hazardous and unpleasant to be around.  There is an enlightening report on these issues that came from problems at a New England wood burner.

It’s also worth noting that diesel locomotives tend to be very high emitters.  Judging from the amount of trackage in the area, I’d wonder if the surrounding communities are not already “disproportionately impacted” by rail operations, which would increase if this facility was built.  Up to 5200 carloads per year of fuel shipments are expected and these would be allowed to be spotted for unloading at all hours and days. (page 5-6)  (The overall fuel consumption seems to be estimated at 365,000 wet tons per year.)

There has been no “air emissions risk analysis” performed and I have found no detailed inventory of “hazardous air pollutants” likely to be emitted.

In reviewing the draft permit for a proposed 25 MW wood burner in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I found the following smokestack emissions of human carcinogens:

Arsenic (69 lbs), carbon tetrachloride (147 lbs), benzene (13,220 lbs), beryllium, cadmium (13lbs), chromium (9 lbs), nickel (11 lbs), vinyl chloride (58 lbs) and styrene (5840 lbs).

The proposed technology of the BG&E burner is different, and the emissions might be different, but I suggest taking these numbers as a warning.  “Clean” wood or biomass is often thought to be a “clean” fuel, but this is not the case.  These fuels are very complex chemically and vary a great deal in composition from one species to another, and from different soil and atmospheric uptake in different locales.

It seems unlikely to me that the proposed facility makes economic or environmental sense.  It would likely have a negative impact on public health.  The money to be invested in it would far better be directed to investments in conservation and efficiency programs, and in solar generation or offshore wind capacity.

I hope this brief discussion is of some value to you and will talk to you this afternoon.

Yours very truly,

Alan Muller

Recycling company wants to compost out-of-state food waste near Wilmington

Recycling company wants to compost out-of-state food waste near Wilmington

Posted Friday, June 8, 2007

Peninsula Compost Co. wants to use this site east of I-495 for composting food waste along with leaves and wood.

A recycling company has proposed composting 160,000 tons a year of food, leaves and wood near the Port of Wilmington, the latest sign, some environmentalists say, that the city is becoming a regional wastebasket.

Peninsula Compost Co. would recycle the castoffs from restaurants and fast-food chains from northern Delaware and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The amount of food waste proposed could exceed the total amount sent to all of Delaware’s landfills in 2002.

Nelson Widell, a principal in the project, said developers plan to cover the dozens of rotting piles of waste — each 50 yards long, 26 feet wide and 10 feet high — with a W.L. Gore & Associates fabric designed to control odors.

Alan Muller, who directs the environmental group Green Delaware, said while the project has lofty goals, it could burden neighborhoods that suffered through previous failed efforts to compost waste at the nearby Pigeon Point Landfill.

“Who’s going to be served by this, and why should more waste disposal facilities be approved for Wilmington … because other jurisdictions are smart enough to not want them in their backyard?” Muller said.

East Wilmington already has become a magnet for other types of waste. Other ventures include:

•A city government-endorsed arrangement that brought hundreds of thousands of tons of out-of-state power plant ash into Wilmington to be mixed with treated sewage sludge. VFL Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Utah-based Headwaters Inc., set a goal of marketing mixtures of ash, sludge and other industrial castoffs as a topsoil substitute. But instead of selling it on the commercial market, VFL has sent more than 1 million tons of the mixture to city-area landfills for landscaping or cover.

•A new business off Christina Avenue in south Wilmington that would collect hundreds of thousands of tons of local and out-of-state construction and demolition waste for shipment by barge to a recycling center in North Carolina.

•A new, large-scale commercial mulching center near the port, opened in advance of a ban on landfilling of northern Delaware yard wastes.

Charles H. Gifford III, president of Peninsula Composting, said his company’s venture is unrelated to others in Delaware.

Gifford said he hopes the project can win a Coastal Zone Act permit this year, allowing the startup to coincide with the landfill ban on yard wastes.

Peninsula’s plan calls for use of the filtering cover system developed by Gore to control odors, moisture and gas emissions that seep up from the piles. Dozens are in use around the world. The largest, in Everett, http://healthsavy.com/product/levitra/ Wash., is roughly the same size as the one proposed for Wilmington.

“We have been looking at the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware area for a while and noted that Delaware had taken a position — a correct position — against leaf and yard waste in their landfills,” Gifford said. “It seemed like the right attitude was evolving there, from a regulatory standpoint.”

Gifford acknowledged that Peninsula would, at least initially, collect food wastes from neighboring states.

A study for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority in 2002 estimated that the entire state generates about 79,000 tons of food waste yearly.

The waste authority already has tested the Gore composting system on a smaller scale with yard waste and poultry house waste at the Sussex County landfill. And the waste authority recently purchased the equipment for use with yard waste at Cherry Island Landfill in east Wilmington.

“I’m very pleased that somebody has decided to come in and do something — not only with yard waste, but food waste,” said Pasquale S. Canzano, the waste authority’s chief executive.

The Port of Wilmington alone sometimes sends large amounts of food waste to Cherry Island, Canzano said, including “trailer loads of bananas and whatever that go bad from time to time.”

Deborah Deubert, executive director of the Rose Hill Community Center just south of the site, said neighborhoods have had trouble with industrial activities in the past. State regulators repeatedly sanctioned and eventually shut down a composting operation at Pigeon Point after odor complaints were filed against the contractor.

“The memory is still fresh, and they have other odor and dust concerns,” involving local businesses and landfills, Deubert said. “I would hope that the powers that be are making an effort to get information out so that people can ask questions about it.”

Widell, a project principal, said the company is “reaching out to neighborhood groups and neighbors. … We’re going to be talking with the neighbors, to take the mystery out of it.”

The operation in Delaware would produce about 250,000 tons yearly of topsoil and compost.

In Wilmington’s Southbridge community, longtime resident Franklin Starkey was skeptical.

“Why does it have to be in south Wilmington,” said Starkey, who lives a few blocks northwest of the proposed composting site, not far from the redeveloping Christina River waterfront.

“I admire what they’re doing with putting new condos on the water and a new ShopRite. I don’t know about compost,” Starkey said. “We already have a problem with odors here, with the landfill and the other things they have out there now. You can’t keep your windows open.”

Alert #32 Delaware Coastal Zone Act faces greatest threat in 26 years

Port Penn, DE. November 17, 1998. One of Delaware’s most important laws is its Coastal Zone Act, passed in 1971. It says: “The coastal areas of Delaware are the most critical areas for the future of the State in terms of the quality of life in the State….it is the policy of the State to control the location, extent, and type of industrial development [to] better protect the natural environment of its bay and coastal areas and safeguard their use primarily for recreation and tourism….This … [law] …seeks to prohibit entirely the construction of new heavy industry in ….coastal areas, which industry is determined to be incompatible with the protection of that natural environment in those areas……”

Working through Del. Gov. Tom Carper, heavy industries operating in the Coastal Zone (including DuPont, Delmarva Power, and Texaco) are poised to gut the Coastal Zone Act. In a key victory, they got the Sierra Club, the Del. Audubon Society, and the Del. “Nature” Society to sign a “Memorandum of Agreement” reinterpreting the Act in favor of industry. No members of the “recreation and tourism ” industries, or fishermen, or watermen, participated in this “Agreement.”

Regulations based on this “Agreement” as expected to be adopted by the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board after a public hearing in Dover on November 23 at one PM.

Lets compare the Act to the “Agreement:” The ACT says “… construction of industrial plants in the coastal zone … is declared to be against public policy.” The AGREEMENT says “the regulatory process should be designed to that http://pharmacy-no-rx.net/voltaren-generic.html each heavy industry facility can obtain permits to add new products, change existing products, increase production capacity, add new processes and modify existing processes…. Such a regulatory process has been developed. Among it’s provisions:

Industry may increase pollution in the Zone in return for “offsetting.” For example, a refinery could put out more air pollution in return for promising to plant trees. This is called “environmental improvement.” We think it’s a scheme to let state agencies “shake down” industries in return for allowing more pollution. “Environmental indicators” chosen and interpreted by the State (read “Industry”) are to be monitored. How this would protect the Coastal Zone from industrial pollution is unclear. A “technical advisory committee” is already at work developing “indicators.” Its 17 members include one identified as an “environmental advocate” and many major polluters.

ACTION: Green Delaware has issued several Alerts about this. Now it’s “LAST CALL:”


Call Christine Waisanen, Chair of the Coastal Zone Board (428-0305), Governor Carper (302.577.3210) and your Senator and Representative. Say (1) you want the proposed regulations discarded, (2) you want the Coastal Zone strengthened, not weakened, and (3) “Offsets” for increased industrial emissions are not acceptable.

Call the Sierra Club (Debbie Heaton, 302.378.8501), the Del. Audubon Society (Grace Pierce-Beck, 302.674.5568) and the Delaware “Nature” Society (Mike Riska, 302.239.2334) Tell them to withdraw their support. Send an email to the Ex. Director of the Sierra Club in San Francisco: carl.pope@sierraclub.org

Look for more details in upcoming Green Delaware News. (C) Alan Muller