From Veronica Cassilly of Darlington:
Harford County’s proposal to triple the size of its incinerator will increase the current rate of burning from 360 tons of trash a day to 1500 tons per day. The emissions from the current incinerator include 94 different toxins, 12 of which the Environmental Protection Agency has established safe levels for. The other 82 toxins have not yet been tested. What is not known is the health effects of inhaling all 94 of toxins in the atmosphere at once.
When you look at the increasing rates of asthma, cancer, and allergies in our children and family members, the proposal to enlarge Harford’s incinerator seems very short sighted at best, and completely irresponsible. This is not just a concern for Edgewood residents, but for every resident in our county. Air emissions don’t just stay in one place, they travel everywhere.
In 2010, burning 1500 tons of trash six days a week seems like an archaic proposal when you consider the available alternatives for generating electricity and reducing waste. Options exist that are not only better for the environment but for the economy. Technologies such as wind and solar are now available to generate electricity and are being used in many places without adding toxins to the air. Recycling is an excellent strategy to reduce and manage waste.
Harford County does not have an effective recycling program. We need a mandatory or incentive based program that is serious about reducing waste. Perhaps the county could model the “pay as you throw” method used in Aberdeen, which charges citizens per bag of trash but takes recycling for free.
The County is currently considering a bill to offer a $2,500 tax credit to residents for installing a geothermal or solar devise. While this is a great idea, in reality it serves only the residents who can afford such a system in the first place. A tax credit to residents who recycle could benefit citizens at every income level.
If the County Executive is serious about increasing jobs in Harford County, consider the following: Incinerating 10 tons of waste creates 1 job, land filling 10 tons of waste creates 6 jobs, recycling 10 tons of waste creates 36 jobs and produces a product which can be sold instead of toxic ash which must be buried in a landfill.
In September, the county began single stream recycling which will be available to those residents who choose to use it. This program combines paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum all in one bag and the bags are then shipped to Anne Arundel County where we pay to have them sorted. Why don’t we build our own materials recovery facility to sort our recycling and import Baltimore Counties recyclables as well?
Investing in incineration will ensure that Harford County becomes a trash importer for decades to come. It is not a responsible or healthy investment in our environment or our children. It is time to give recycling and alternative energy more than just lip service. We need to invest in strategies that are both economical and environmentally sustainable.