(Op-ed from JoAnn Hardy)
To the editor:
I have been surprised by statements from some of our city leaders that the more they hear from the trash/tire burning plant representatives, the more comfortable they are with the project. The more I hear from the CES guys, the more questions I have. I wonder how much research our leaders are doing on the project.
This is not just another business coming to town. This is a new company with an unproven technology that wants to try out their process within city limits near Newman School and Daycare and near the neighborhoods of West Haven and Rolling Acres and the Mason City Country Club. When the southern breezes blow in the summer, we’ll have unknown amounts of toxins blowing all over town and beyond.
There will be a ripple effect throughout the region in other ways, too. Jobs will be lost at the Landfill of North Iowa as tonnage shifts to CES and jobs will be lost at Mason City Recycling as people and communities stop recycling and just send recyclables to CES to sort out. The Cerro Gordo County Health Department should be involved in discussions about the effect on our local air quality. Golden Grain will have to deal with cumulative emissions restrictions. Have our city leaders sat down with the affected parties to discuss the ramifications? Isn’t it their job to gather that information? When city leaders count jobs, do they subtract off the jobs they lose for us?
There is a “plan” to hire 55 people at CES, but the CEO, Mr. Yavorski in a September interview said he can run the plant with 20 people if he automates the garbage sorting. I visited the Ames Resource Recovery plant a couple of weeks ago (it does not use the technology that CES is talking about). The Ames plant uses machines to sort trash. They said they would never ask humans to sort, as it is demeaning and dangerous work. They expressed surprise that CES is “planning” to use people to hand sort trash.
All through the presentations that Mr. Yavorski and Mr. Flores do here, there is an overuse of the phrases “ we expect” and “we plan” . If there was a plant like this operating successfully anywhere, they would have some actual data about its operation and be able to say “we will” and “we know”. There is no plant. There is no data. There are no facts. Mr. Flores, in a September interview, said “this plant would be a prototype, a first of its kind”. I could get excited about a new technology, if it didn’t have such a huge potential to cause harm and in so many ways.
Who are we being asked to do business with? If this were just some benign little manufacturing plant with no potential to harm our health or our environment and no ripple effects through other businesses, I wouldn’t be concerned. CES is private and doesn’t have to reveal who is backing them, but how does a guy with an on-line degree in computers (Mr. Yavorski) qualify for a $35 million loan at 0% interest for an energy plant? Could you get a loan like that? Who is SK Barua? He is on their business registration papers in Las Vegas as the president and treasurer and secretary and director of the company. Do our city leaders, who are pushing this project, even know who they are dealing with?
I don’t want to see this trash/tire burning plant anywhere around here, but at the very least, please don’t test the technology inside city limits near playgrounds and neighborhoods and a school and daycare. Our city leaders have a responsibility to protect our health and safety. Our city leaders definitely do not have enough information to site this plant in city limits, because the information is not available anywhere. There are no facts on which to base a decision in favor of this plant. There are no plants like this. There is no actual data about the CES technology.
The next step in the process is the Zoning Board of Adjustment which meets on December 6 at 4 p.m. at City Hall.