Doctors and environmentalists oppose a proposal for Marion County to burn Portland garbage in local incinerators. They object to Metro, the regional government for people living in the Portland area, shipping 200,000 tons of waste each year to the Covanta Marion waste-to-energy facility in Brooks.
200,000 tons represents one-fifth of Metro’s yearly solid waste trash.
The Covinta facility says that if it took on the extra Metro garbage, it would require it doubling the capacity of the plant. Covanta Marion is an Energy-from-Waste facility that creates electricity from garbage it burns at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Its operation provides the county both electricity income.
Americans generate about 4.3 pounds of waste per day, and about 55% of that winds up in landfill. Metro and every other municipality must determine the best way to handle that quantity of garbage – with the most common ways being landfill or burning.
On October 7th, the Environmental Health Working Group of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (OPSR) sent a formal memo to Metro listing 11 reasons it would be environmentally ill advised to ship garbage to Marion County.
Among other points, OPSR cited data that waste-to-energy incinerators produce more pollution and global warming emissions per unit of electricity that coal fired power plants. It provided statistics from the Energy Justice Network that “to make the same amount of energy as a coal-powered plant, trash incinerators release 28 times as much dioxin than coal, 2.5 times as much carbon dioxide, twice as much carbon monoxide, three times as much nitrogen oxides, 6-14 times as much mercury, nearly six times as much lead and 70% more sulfur dioxides.”
OPSR also said that a group of toxic pollutants from the Covanta plant, nitrogen oxides, were already only 4% below the federal EPA limit in 2011 – 2014. With Marion County recently authorizing 25,000 tons of medical waste from California and Washington State to be burned every year, OPSR suggested that nitrogen oxides emissions would likely accelerate to dangerous levels.