Below is a Letter to the Editor submitted to the Alpena News. Our goodneighbor Lafarge has decided that they do not need to bother with a permit to burn recycled plastic and are supposedly doing so at their own risk. Forget about the residents od N.E. Michigan. We were told that there was 160,000 tons of this plastic, about a six months supply, at a paper plant in northern Michigan. We know they started using it in April. No oversight and as far as we know no stack tests and no enforcement. It is supposed to be non-halogenated, chlorine free but who is making sure that it is? In a month or so it could be gone and all Lafarge would have to do is say OK we'll stop. So what if it added a little more mercury to our emissions. How can you prove it?
Bill Freese, Director
Letter to the Editor
130 Park Place
Alpena, MI 49707
Suspicions confirmed. Lafarge has continued to burn plastic from what was a permit for a trial burn. In April at the Air & Water Quality meeting Mark Stephens of the MDEQ, shortly before he retired, asked HEAL for its approval for Lafarge to burn recycled plastic. He said Mr. Helwig the AQD Chief would assure HEAL of strict compliance and oversight if we did.
We have a four page professionally prepared report which shows that substituting the plastic and wood chips for coal and coke could decrease the overall mercury control efficiency. It could change the physical form of mercury from oxidized form to elemental form. It might mean less oxidized mercury but elemental mercury is harder to control and could result in an increase of mercury emissions. In 2006 Lafarge self reported 360 pounds of mercury emissions. We suspect the real number was much higher. We need less mercury not more.
At this months Air & Water meeting, when asked if Lafarge was burning this plastic Stephens replacement, Gloria Torello said no. It was in the study stage and then would go to public comment. She said if they were she would have been notified. We have found that she called Lansing the next day and was told they were. How can there be strict compliance when your own enforcers are left out? An additional reason for HEAL to turn down their offer.
Lafarge claims exemption to burn under rule 285. The MDEQ denied the exemption and told Lafarge they needed to go through the permit process. Until then they were burning at their own risk. For over three months THE STEWARD OF OUR ENVIRONMENT has been burning plastic.
Bill Freese, Director
Huron Environmental Activist League