Live Oak —
I don’t want to stick my neck out. I want healthy water to drink and clean water to swim in. I want a Suwannee River that flows to the Gulf of Mexico, a Santa Fe River that flows into the Suwannee and springs that flow into both rivers. I love North Florida! I didn’t want to have to write this letter but someone has to. I have property a little over three miles from “Catalyst Site” where a waste incinerator is in the final stages of getting its “construction permit.”
In case no one knows, the site is less than two miles from Falmouth Springs, less than four miles from the Suwannee River and Suwannee River State Park (with two springs) and the same distance and closer to hundreds of rural residents. There are also huge irrigated fields; some with livestock to the north, south east and west of the site.
Over and over again, Suwannee County elected officials have cried “we need jobs” without looking at the cost to the community and region of those same jobs. The recent trend of profits leaving the county -- a cement plant owned by a giant Brazilian corporation, a taxpayer funded lumber mill where the profits will go to Austria and now a garbage incinerator with lots of promises but the profits going to a “foreign profit corporation and is ‘authorized to conduct business’” (quotes from Suwannee Democrat Aug. 2, 2013).
Commissioner Clyde Fleming was quoted as saying “At first, when they hear medical incinerator, they get scared,” in the same Democrat article. The people should be scared. Air emissions from an incinerator of this size will affect people in the entire region—not just in Suwannee County. People as far away as the Gulf of Mexico will suffer from this decision. As for local folks, the waste has to get here by road or train and be stored until it can be burned. The ash from the waste must be disposed of. The water to fuel the process has to come from somewhere.
Even if the final air permit is approved, there will be substantial soot particles and chemicals allowed into the air. Can you think of a hospital stay that didn’t include LOTS of plastic? Burned plastic causes terrible cancer-causing emissions and almost all incinerated waste causes copious mercury emissions.
It’s bad enough for the neighbors to have to breathe the invisible gasses, but those same chemicals leach out of the air and end up in our water. It’s already unsafe to eat many types of fish caught in the Suwannee, our local lakes, the Gulf and the Atlantic due to high mercury levels. Mercury is poisonous. It makes people sick. Another huge incinerator will make it worse. There are alternatives to outright burning of waste—even medical waste.
I have questions for the County Commissioners. How many of them live next door to this project? Will these jobs have benefits? Will this company be getting tax assistance? Is there a contract in writing to guarantee anything that the company has promised? Will they be able to smell it in Live Oak when the wind changes?
My questions really don’t matter though. No matter what happens, if the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Suwannee River Water Management District give them the permits, they can build it. The Suwannee County Commission voted 4-0 last month that “anything goes” at the Catalyst Site as long as they get their air and water permits. Pretty scary. What’s next, radioactive waste? Wait. Some Medical Incinerators are authorized to take radioactive waste.
After doing some reading, it appears that the new incinerator will need a substantial amount of water. Falmouth Springs and the two springs at the State Park have quit flowing unless the Suwannee just flooded. What will these additional water withdrawals mean to a region that is already visibly short on water?
The Suwannee River Water Management District hasn’t gotten around to setting Minimum Flows and Levels for the Middle Suwannee River yet, so the incinerator will likely get a rubber stamp from them.
Florida—even though they were required by law to set Total Maximum Daily Load rules for mercury in Florida’s waters and fish—has managed to stall and not set them yet. They were scheduled to be set in 2011. The state and federal rules won’t substantially protect individuals who live in regions from a project like this.
There are limited proposed federal mercury air standards but they do not go into effect until 2014 and into full effect until 2016.
And what happens if/when the incinerator goes out of business? You can ask Detroit how much those great jobs they used to have are doing for them today. You can ask Crystal River and Levy County how loyal the promises of a giant energy corporation were even though some of the very same “jobs” and “economic growth” promises were made at public meetings and hearings. Now those decisions are costing the local tax payers in the not-so-long run for a project that will never be built. We need iron clad agreements. We need sustainable, clean jobs—not just any old job-all at the expense of the people of Suwannee County and Florida.
Landowner Suwannee County
Resident Levy County
Live Oak —
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