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Is the new generation of incinerators really safe?

Friday, 03 May, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

We were disturbed to come across a report that India’s flagship incinerator in Delhi appears to be creating hazardous air quality conditions in the surrounding area.

The Timarpur-Okhla plant is India’s only integrated waste management project, and it processes municipal solid waste, or MSW, from which it produces electricity. It handles 1,300 tonnes a day and aims to process a third of Delhi’s MSW.

Our interest arises out of the Hong Kong government’s plans for dealing with MSW. The last administration’s “solution” was to build a 3,000-tonnes-a-day monster at Shek Kwu Chau island at a cost of about HK$28 billion. This has, for the moment, been shelved. The new generation of incinerators has been hailed as a substantial improvement over their predecessors, as the discharge of dioxins, suspended particles and organic pollutants was greatly reduced through high-temperature burning at over 850 degrees Celsius, air-cleaning systems and other improvements. They are widely used in Germany and Japan.

However, despite the claims made for these new incinerators, complaints continue, with some relatively new incinerators being closed down on environmental grounds.

Air samples taken from around the Delhi plant were analysed by Chester LabNet and the Chennai-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and showed levels of PM2.5 many times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines.

Plant officials said the exercise was unscientific, adding: “Stack emissions have been slightly higher than permitted on a few occasions due to quality of waste burnt on that day.” This is a new plant which has been running for just over a year and was built to be “environmentally safe”.

It is because of concerns such as these that there will be considerable interest in the International Conference on Solid Waste, subtitled “Innovation in Technology and Management”, which is being held in Hong Kong next week at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. It includes a public forum on Tuesday at 5pm in room S421 on the subject of “Thermal technology waste management in metropolises”, with a panel of experts.

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Comments: 06.38 AM

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CANCER mortality in towns in the vicinity of incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results support the hypothesis of a statistically significant increase in the risk of dying from cancer in towns near incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste.

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