Waste Incinerator Plan for Niagara Finally Deep Sixed

A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted February 1st, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – A proposal to locate an incinerator somewhere in Niagara, Ontario for burning waste has finally been extinguished by municipal politicians following many months of opposition from citizens in the region.

Citizen watchdog Liz Benneian speaks last summer at public meeting in Thorold community of Port Robinson about incinerator proposal. File photo by Doug Draper

Citizen watchdog Liz Benneian speaks last summer at public meeting in Thorold community of Port Robinson about incinerator proposal. File photo by Doug Draper

The plan by a private corporation to build a so-called ‘energy-from-waste incinerator somewhere in the Allanburg/Port Robinson area of Thorold was recently voted down by Thorold’s city council. Then this January 31st, a majority of councillors on Niagara Region’s public works committee said no to it – believing it would likely never fly anyway with an Ontario government that, earlier this year, indicated no interest in such projects, reportedly because of a surplus supply of electricity is already available in the province.

But credit for killing a proposal that belongs somewhere back in the last century – if burning waste to produce energy was ever a good idea at all – must also go to concerned Niagara area citizens like Liz Benneian and others, including her ‘No Burn Niagara’ citizens coalition, who rallied other residents across the region, and who never failed to show up at municipal council meetings to make the case against incinerating waste.

What is sad is that in this second, gong on third decade of the 21st century, we still have parties coming forward with proposals to incinerate streams of household, commercial and sometimes even industrial waste – often with promise of converting the energy generated from the burning into electricity.

I can go back to times during my years as a fulltime environment reporter for a daily newspaper in Niagara when such plans were put forward, and the case against them was more or less the same as it was again this time.

First, there is no such thing as an incinerator that does not emit toxic substances to the surrounding atmosphere. And even if the concentrations of poisons being emitted are low enough to meet current air quality standards, a number of these substances have a tendency to accumulate over time in water systems, soil and in a food chain that includes foods consumed by humans.

Second, at least a percentage of the waste needed to feed an incinerator –and you have to feed them continuously with truckloads of waste to make them profitable – is waste that could and arguably should be recycled to produce new products. In fact, there are examples of industries, including paper producers, in this region and others – industries that contacted this environment reporter in years gone by to get their concerns on the record – that have opposed proposals for waste-burning incinerators because they would literally be destroying the waste they need to manufacture their products and remain in businesses that employ a good number of people in the community.

Third, rather than burning waste, we should be doing more to reduce the amount of waste we create in the first place. Incinerators only create an incentive to continue generating waste, or generate even more for fuel to keep the operation running.

One would think that Niagara’s regional government, which runs the regions collection and sorting services for recyclable wastes from households and businesses, and which generates revenue to help pay for its waste management services by selling recyclable paper, plastics metals and other materials to industries that turn them into products, would have said no to this incinerator proposal a year ago – for economic reasons, if not for environmental reasons.

But his particular Niagara regional administration and its council lead by Al Caslin were, until relatively recently, expressing their approval for this incineration project.

A year ago this February, some members of council were touting this project as one that might “help diversify Niagara’s economy and create opportunities in the renewable energy sector. In an interview with an area newspaper, Caslin added, with reference to this incinerator proposal that “we’ve (meaning his regional council) stated it many times and I’ll state it again, that we are open for business.”

Yes, but that should not mean being open for business at any cost.

There are examples in neighbouring regions, including the Buffalo, New York area across the Niagara River which is roaring back to life after decades of economic depression, of growing businesses and jobs without posing risks for existing residents and businesses, and for the environment.

It is hardly clear that Caslin and company have the will or imagination to shape and support plans for growing Niagara in ways that are both economically and environmentally sustainable, which is why it is important to have many more citizens like Liz Benneian around to keep a critical eye on these people.

About No Burn Niagara – No Burn Niagara is a citizen’s coalition formed to fight against a proposed waste incinerator in Niagara and to fight for Zero Waste. Find out more by visiting the coalition’s facebook page at – https://www.facebook.com/noburnniagara/

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

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