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Incinerator exceeds limits for dioxin, furans

Mistakes should not be happening, councillor says

incineratorBy Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The Durham York Energy Centre may be putting more pollutants into the air than it’s supposed to, with tests showing that number is as high as four times the allowable amount.

“Part of the test was to do a stack test, which had to demonstrate that they meet all the limits, including dioxin and furans,” Mirka Januszkiewicz, the region’s director of waste management, tells The Oshawa Express. “On Monday (Oct. 19), we were informed that Covanta had received the results of the stack test. The sample, which they sent to the lab for dioxin and furans, had levels which exceeded our ECA level of 60 (pico grams).”

At a recent works committee meeting, Januszkiewicz said the level from the test was 250 pico grams. These levels were taken from tests that occurred between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2. The tests are done by installing a cartridge in one of the stacks emitting vapour and other byproducts from the incinerator, and sending it to a lab to see what has accumulated over a three-day stretch.

Januszkiewicz says Covanta installed a new testing cartridge last week, and results from it should be available by the end of this week.

The region’s waste management director says that despite the levels coming in above permitted levels, there is no risk to human health.

“Covanta…ordered dispersion modeling and confirmed to us and the (Ministry of the Environment) that there’s no exceedance of dioxins and furans on the point of impeachment and there’s not any concerns with impacts on human life,” Januszkiewicz says.

According to Health Canada, dioxins and furans are a byproduct of incineration processes, and can accumulate in biological tissues. The federal entity also says that while humans and animals are all exposed to the two compounds, exposure in higher concentrations can lead to serious health problems.

The results from the testing were first reported at the most recent meeting of the region’s works committee by Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner, who added that the levels of dioxins and furans weren’t the only issue the incinerator has had during it’s 30-day acceptance testing period.

“Specifically, they’ve been over on three occasions on their carbon monoxide, with deviations from the guaranteed parameters. They have gotten them back under control fairly quickly, but there have been deviations,” he said. “The next matter they’ve had some concerns with…is the ash production seems to be more voluminous than we first anticipated. They are getting more ash by weight than the guarantees under the contract. So they’re trying to tweak the operations so they can get that ash volume down.”

Covanta’s 30-day acceptance test concludes at the end of the week, with the region set to decide whether to move forward with bringing the incinerator into commercial operation, or sending the operator to go back and try again.

“If they fail this 30-day acceptance test, under the contract they do get a do-over,” Curtis said. “They get another 30 days to run the plant and try and demonstrate that it is in fact under the…parameters.”

Oshawa Councillor John Neal, who sits on the works committee, told The Oshawa Express that with a project of this scale, mistakes like this shouldn’t be happening.

“Something this expensive, with money taken out of our roads budget – we could’ve put in roads, we could’ve put in infrastructure – they decide to build this, and as far as I’m concerned, it should be built right,” he says.

Neal also says that Dr. Robert Kyle, the region’s medical officer of health, should be brought in on this matter.

“It’s not healthy for sure with the dioxins and furans that are there. It’s not compatible to human health by any means. (I asked) if the officer of health Dr. Kyle was in on this. Evidently he wasn’t. Everyone was finding out (about the overages) as we were sitting there,” he says. “I’ve been on health and social services for 14 years, I know how things go, and Dr. Kyle should’ve been brought in immediately on the conversation.”

Januszkiewicz says the matter will be reviewed with Kyle.