Campaign Launched against Proposed Garbage Incinerator
by Sandy Buchanan
The City of Cleveland’s proposal to build a new garbage incinerator at its Ridge Road transfer station is drawing opposition from neighborhood residents, environmental groups and public health professionals. Cleveland’s city-owned electric company, Cleveland Public Power, is proposing to bring in garbage from the city and Northeast Ohio region to be “gasified” by using a type of incineration technology new to the U.S.
Cleveland Public Power has applied to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for an air pollution permit for the facility. According to the application, the incinerator would become one of the largest sources of air pollution in Cleveland, especially for soot and mercury. Dr. Anne Wise, a physician at Neighborhood Family Practice, a medical clinic just a few blocks away from the proposed incinerator site, said, “Children who live in highly polluted communities tend to have more asthma and respiratory problems than those who don’t—even controlling for things like parental smoking habits. Why should our kids who already have high lead, high levels of asthma, our seniors who are already struggling with lung and cardiovascular diseases in proportions much greater than outside of Cleveland, why should they be subject to these risks even more? They count. They shouldn’t be seen as collateral damage.”
According to the city, the incinerator could increase truck traffic up to 550 trucks per day—which would mean a garbage truck coming in every one and a half minutes. Claudette Wlasuk, who lives near the proposed facility, said, “The traffic is my big concern because you can’t argue about those fumes. The trucks worry me because I am so close to the incinerator, especially if they come from I-480 to Ridge Rd.”
Residents have launched a yard sign campaign with red, black and white signs that say “No Cleveland Incinerator,” and are preparing for meetings and public hearings. Earth Day Coalition, Environmental Health Watch, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action have co-sponsored community meetings in Cleveland with recycling and waste reduction expert Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Teresa Mills, who led the successful campaign to close the Columbus incinerator.
Neil Seldman, who has worked with cities and small businesses around the country, recommended that the city investigate alternatives to incineration, which would boost the city’s recycling rates and create jobs. The developer of the proposed Ridge Road facility is Peter Tien, the same individual who was the key figure in Cleveland’s failed attempt to set up an exclusive contract with the Chinese Sunpo-Optu light bulb manufacturer. Tien has received a contract for $1.5 million from Cleveland Public Power to apply for an air permit and design the facility. Cleveland Public Power said they are waiting for information from Tien on how much the facility will cost. The latest estimate was $180 million.
Citizens and environmental organizations have challenged the city’s attempts to hide much of the information about the facility as a “trade secret.” After eight months of keeping key data about the proposal out of the public version of the air pollution permit application, the city finally released an unredacted version on Nov. 15, after Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Shannon Fisk forced the issue with the Ohio EPA. Fisk’s letter also challenged the city’s attempts to avoid tougher air pollution restrictions by claiming they will operate the facility in such a way to come in just a fraction under several key emissions thresholds. This maneuver would mean that citizens would not be able to sue to enforce environmental laws, and that the incinerator could add to the overall air pollution of the area without forcing other air polluters to reduce their emissions. Because this facility is experimental, no prototypes exist for residents to examine. But the track record of garbage incinerators in the U.S. is dismal.
The permit for a facility known as Mahoning Renewable Energy in Alliance, which Cleveland Public Power said would have been comparable to the proposed Cleveland plant, was withdrawn in March 2011. The campaign against the facility was led by a local manufacturer of food packaging products who did not want toxic emissions from the facility contaminating his products.
Interested in getting involved? Here’s how—Contact Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson at 601 Lakeside Ave., Cleveland, Ohio 44114 or 216-664-3990, and Cleveland City Council at 601 Lakeside Ave., Room 220, Cleveland, Ohio 44114 or 216-664-2840, and let them know why you object to the proposed incinerator.
Join the citizens’ campaign against the incinerator by putting up a yard sign, circulating a petition or participating in neighborhood meetings. Contact Dave Ralph at 216-970-7724 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www.ohiocitizen.org and click on Cleveland incinerator.
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Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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