Greenfield is one of the three communities targeted for the development of biomass plants, Governor Patrick's newest, one-size-fits-all solution to Massachusett's energy needs. Biomass developer Matthew Wolfe's original proposal called for the plant to purchase water from the municipality to dissipate heat from its incinerator.
Now Wolfe wants to purchase partially-treated waste water from the town instead. Gotta keep those costs down, you know? The waste water would be pumped uphill to the plant.
Not one of the residents of Greenfield, many of whom were medical and scientific experts, spoke in favor of this idea.
First, there's the pathogens that might be emitted-- viruses and bacteria that abound in partially treated water. But even assuming that most of them would be destroyed in the heating process, that leaves everything else. A 2005 survey of drinking water in 42 states by the Environmental Working Group found 141 unregulated chemicals and an additional 119 for which the Environmental Protection Agency has set health-based limits, including disinfection byproducts, nitrates, chloroform, barium, arsenic and copper. CommonDreams.
Two categories of chemicals were of particular concern to Greenfield residents: antibiotics and endocrine disruptors. The dangers of antibiotic overuse are becoming better-known: we get resistant to antibiotics and so do the pathogens. Endocrine disruptors, which are both hormones and those chemicals which mimic hormones, are less well-known to the public, although biologists are aware of their effect on sexual reproduction on amphibians and fish. Nicholas Kristof's column, It's Time to Learn From Frogs, details some of the effects already taking place in humans, and it's scary reading.
In the end, after receiving page after page of testimony against the use of waste water for cooling, the
Greenfield Appointment and Ordinance Committee did the only thing they could do-- they approved Wolfe's request. The chairman of the board tried to get the decision put off for a week so it could be studied, but none of the other three had the guts-- or the intelligence-- to second the motion.
It's not all over for Greenfield residents, who continue organizing against this incinerator and who have a number of legal strategies in play. We in Springfield, however, had almost almost lost the battle against the incinerator proposed for our community before we even knew knew about the war. Our incinerator, proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy, will burn mostly construction and demolition wood, contaminated with arsenic, lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals. We're late in the day getting started, but I don't believe we're too late. Check out the website for our organizing efforts, Say NO to Construction and Debris Incineration.
Photo from Aliwest44's photostream at Flickr.