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Environmental Commission has concerns about waste to gas facility

Letter to the editor:

October 31, 2011 FROM: Environmental Stewardship Advisory Commission (ESAC)

RE: Creative Energy Systems (CES) Request for Conditional Use Permit

In 2006 the City Council passed an ordinance which established ESAC and allowed for the appointment of seven members. The mission of ESAC is to assist the city council and the community in shaping perspectives and creating policies that protect, restore, and enhance the environment of Mason City for present and future generations.

Commission members recognize their stewardship responsibility and have voted to share their concerns regarding the operation of the proposed CES gasification facility and the potential it has to negatively impact public health. What follows are the commissions identified concerns:

1. There is much evidence that facilities that gasify municipal waste emit toxins into the air and produce hazardous waste that must be disposed of in specifically designated landfills. Identified toxins include dioxin, which is a potent carcinogen, and mercury, a well known neurotoxin that damages or destroys nerve cells. There are additional toxic by-products produced in this process, and the commission is concerned about the potential danger that all of them pose to public health.

2. The proposed building site is located approximately one mile from a school. It is important to note that children are more vulnerable to toxins that are a by-product of established gasification facilities because their brain, nervous system and immune system are still developing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have established that even a tiny exposure of some of these toxins can be damaging for a child.

3. The Department of Natural Resources will monitor this facility due to the toxic waste, but regulations and monitoring do not insure safety. Standards regarding acceptable levels of these toxins are difficult to determine. In addition, the DNR is dependent upon adequate funding and staffing to provide the monitoring which is typically only done on a limited basis.

4. The type of gasification facility proposed by CES is experimental in nature. This means that there are many unknowns about how this facility may function or what the level of emissions could be.

Many of the questions posed by members of this commission and other citizens of this community about what types of waste will be processed, the potential level of toxins, whether there are outdoor emissions, as well as what the plans are for the disposal of the hazardous waste have not been answered.

It is important information to have so that decisions made not only address economic concerns but also take into account issues concerning human health and public safety.

When will this information be provided? When will the questions be answered?

Because this activity raises the potential threat of harm to human health, precautionary measures should be taken.

The members of ESAC have recommended that the Zoning Board of Adjustment postpone the decision to issue this permit until important and relevant questions are answered and adequate time is allowed to consider the impact that this facility may have on human health.

The risk to the community is too great.

Commission Members Supporting This Letter: Cindy Connor, Kevin Hardy, Steve Hugo, Stacie Lancaster, Carol Patnode, Mary R. Schultz,.

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