A biomass electric generating plant is projected to begin construction June 2011 across from the Mud Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant and will be fully functioning by 2013.
There has been much controversy regarding the plant and we, as a staff, feel that the construction of the biomass would be more destructive than beneficial.
The plant is projected to create short-term construction jobs while the plant is being built and between 25 to 30 full-time workers once the plant is finished. Twenty-five jobs seem exceedingly diminutive when compared to the immense harm the plant would pose to our atmosphere. Does employing 25 people outweigh the consequences of building such a monster that is a threat to our health and a waste of our tax dollars? The answer is no, it’s not worth it.
While the plant will not burn waste or trees, it will however, burn the shrubs and small trees forming the vegetation in surrounding forests. The underbrush is what enables the trees to grow and provides them with the nutrients they need to stay alive. As a result, a domino effect will occur and the burning of this underbrush will be problematic in maintaining our ecosystem.
Gilbert Waldman, vice president and general manager of Sterling Energy Assets (the company who is building the plant), said in the Nov. 4 issue of the Valdosta Daily Times that the biomass plant is under state and federal emission standards and the plant will not release any noticeable emissions from its smoke stack. Maybe not noticeable emissions, but they will be there.
According to Hazardous Substance & Waste Management Research, Inc., the plant will not threaten the public well-being because it is comprised of several emission regulations. They actually expect a decrease of harmful air emissions; however, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League states otherwise. Although Wiregrass Biomass LLC meets the Georgia Clean Air Act requirement as far as amount of emissions, a document published by the BREDL points out an assortment of loopholes in the air permit.
The plant does not have to obtain a major source under the Clean Air Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration rules. The document states that “control technology review, source impact analysis, air quality analysis, source information,and impact analysis are not required.”
Under Section 3.1.1, “there is no emission limit for SO2 for boilers burning wood.” This means that the only requirement that the plant must meet is an opacity standard, which is merely the thickness of smoke noticeable from the stack. The plant also intends to buy sulfur dioxide, which will increase the levels of SO2 released.
Additionally, the document contains a warning from the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, which states that research has proven that burning emissions from biomasses increases the risk of death, heart disease, lung disease and even cancer.
The main by-product of the biomass plant will be ash and retailed for use in fertilizers, for example. The ash that is not sold will be taken to the landfill, which will ultimately increase pollution in the area.
According to the American Lung Association, Atlanta has nationally been ranked 19th in ozone pollution and 16th in year-round particle pollution. The biomass will only add to the pollution that clearly inhabits our state already, creating more of a problem for the next generation to come.
Because we are constantly in search of cleaner and more easily obtainable energy options, a biomass plant might be regarded as a suitable method of obtaining this vital energy; however, we strongly feel that the material that is released in the process will bring about a harmful effect on both our natural world and our physical well-being.