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Cobourg’s air quality is threatened

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today


In a world where China is selling cans of fresh air for 75 cents, two speakers urged Cobourg council this week to support their fight against a waste-management proposal they consider deadly to air quality.


Colm Maher appeared in support of Port Hope Residents 4 Managing Waste Responsibly, the group that has sprung up to oppose the prospective Entech REM gasification plant in Wesleyville on a number of fronts — chief among them being the potential of the plant to destroy air quality.

The World Health Organization links seven million deaths to air pollution, Maher said.

“Cobourg and Northumberland County were once known for their renowned air quality and pleasant surroundings. Cobourg, the 'feel good town,' could become the 'feel sick town,'” he said.

Noting that proponents refer to it as a gasification facility, Maher insisted there’s no substantive difference between what is proposed and an incinerator.

The facility could shower all Northumberland residents with ultra-fine fly ash, he said.

And because it would be such an expensive facility, he added, the only way to make it pay would be to keep it operating continually. Expect a steady stream of dump trucks from Toronto making their way to Wesleyville, he predicted.

With a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, he said, the plant would impose detrimental conditions on at least one future generation which would have no say on the matter.

“People seem to think incinerators make garbage disappear. Actually, it doesn’t,” Maher stated.

About 20% to 30% of the waste intake remains as ash, and about 5% of it goes into the air as fly ash, he said. Both kinds of ash are highly toxic, and disposal sights must be found — in someone’s back yard.

Unfortunately, fly ash resists capture and just goes where the air takes it. Maher considers it inevitable that it would eventually make its way into the vegetables we grow, the fish and game we harvest, the dairy products we consume, and home and school playgrounds our children frequent.

And it does travel, according to medical geneticist Stan Blecher. Dust from China has recently been identified in California, he said, and dioxins that originated in Florida have been detected in the Great Lakes.

“The incinerator would produce 16 tonnes of highly toxic ash per day,” Blecher estimated.

He distributed a list of what he termed the top 20 fallacies being circulated about the proposal — which he insisted is a threat to the health and well-being of all Northumberland communities.

To claim this technology can solve the landfill problem, he said, reminds him of American tobacco ads that once recommend smoking to deal with sore throats and coughs.

The enlightened answer to waste disposal is the old reliable three Rs, Blecher said: reduce, reuse, recycle.

“Northumberland County has an excellent record. They’ve just got to do better,” Maher agreed.

Since the county has jurisdiction over waste management, Blecher said, it should rightfully fall to that level of government to deal with this proposal.

As the town’s liaison to the county waste-management long-term planning committee, Deputy Mayor Stan Frost agreed to take their material to the committee. 

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