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Editorial: ZBA has duty to screen projects (by JoAnn Hardy)

This news story was published on December 18, 2011.
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(Op-ed by JoAnn Hardy)

CES is not required to apply for a permit from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) before they build a plant in Mason City.  The Zoning Board of Adjustment (which meets December 20 at 4 p.m. on second floor of city hall) is the step in the process that has the burden of screening the project for safety and health risks to the citizens of Mason City.  I hope they do their job and get information about emissions from his technology and the health effects to our community before they give it a permit to build inside city limits.

There is not testing data from CES about the plant proposed for Mason City.  There is not data to study from successfully operating Municipal Solid Waste or tire pyrolysis plants of commercial size.  Therefore, there is no way for the ZBA to make a determination about our health and safety with regard to the CES plant at this time.

Both the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Iowa Department of Public Health have expressed a need for a lot more information before a determination can be made about whether this plant could be permitted (IDNR) or whether it would be harmful to human health (IDPH).  Mason City garbage needs to be taken to a test facility.  We need detailed information about what is fed into the pyrolysis test unit.   The trash should be sorted as it will be sorted here and include tires—if we are going to allow tires.  There needs to be detailed information about toxins that come out of the gas burners and other parts of the plant and in what quantity.  And we need air modeling.  Then that information should be shared with the IDNR and IDPH so they can interpret it and advise the ZBA about the health and safety risks associated with this new technology.

The fact that there is permitting required by the DNR and continuous monitoring proposed by the city, does not protect our health and safety.  It just means we will know what pollutants are being added to our air and in what quantities.  We already have several smokestack industries that put emissions into our air in Mason City.  There are cumulative effects as we add more smokestack industries.  ZBA needs to have reliable data about the emissions this plant would add to our air so it can be determined if it adds too much to be a safe addition to our community.

JoAnn Hardy

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4 Responses to Editorial: ZBA has duty to screen projects (by JoAnn Hardy)

  1. Avatar

    anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 19, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Observer, once again you have shown yourself to be technically challenged and your comment only serves to lend further credence to Hardy’s position on the need for testing. Don’t get it? Try harder next time or just turn off the light and go to sleep.

    • Avatar

      Observer Reply Report comment

      December 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

      I don’t think myself technically challenged at all. But, since you throw out that comment, please by all means explain to the readers exactly how I am so technically challenged.

  2. Avatar

    truth talker Reply Report comment

    December 19, 2011 at 8:54 am

    The end result will likely be a 4-1 vote on this issue by the ZBA unless the county health spokesman has some revelation.

  3. Avatar

    Observer Reply Report comment

    December 19, 2011 at 12:33 am

    “ Therefore, there is no way for the ZBA to make a determination about our health and safety with regard to the CES plant at this time.”

    I must disagree.

    Of particular interest is a plant in N. Dakota; Great Plains Synfuel. It takes lignite and gasifies it into a synfuel, pumps it into the natural gas pipeline. They have been producing syngas for over 20 years now.

    Be it synfuel or natural gas, both must be cleaned prior to being delivered. The gas from the CES plant would be no exception.

    If the gas that CES will use to fire it’s turbine is so bad, how come you have not attacked the Alliant plant, which does the same exact thing??? For all you know, the gas it gets from the pipeline, may have come from N. Dakota.

    And one more point. While Zoning may have authority to allow or disallow the use of land, I feel the Commission has no authority to try and regulate emissions. That is the direct juristiction of the IDNR, using rules from the EPA.

    Yes ZBA should listen to what DNR has to say, but all that is a moot point until CES can apply for permits. Until they do, neither you, ZBA, or I will know exactly what this plant will consist of, and the technology it will use.

    Making ZBA do the job of DNR, without it’s expertise, and without knowing what CES will apply for, is putting the cart before the horse.