Regardless of who was on the receiving end, it was great to see Live Oak City Hall packed by Suwannee County Citizens at the town hall meeting on Sept. 19. The turnout proves that we do care what happens in our community.
The recipient of the turnout was the Pennsylvania-based medical waste incinerator company (IWMS). Owners Marvin Barry and David Henritzy conducted a town hall meeting to explain their intent and answer public questions. They both did an admirable job of explaining and answering under fire. I believe Mr. Barry and Mr. Henritzy to be good people with good intentions, and they need a place to build. However, Suwannee County is a bad choice for their medical waste facility.
The catalyst site is a good venture if properly managed. Proper managing is not to put a medical waste incinerator on the property. Suppose a clothing manufacturer or auto parts distributor wanted to build there, how would the medical waste incinerator impact those companies? When our commissioners signed up Klausner Saw Mill, they talked about needing restaurants and motels out there to service employees. Really? A Burger King, Zaxby’s, Olive Garden next to a medical waste incinerator? I think Suwannee Countians’ dreams for this site were for light industry; for example, the manufacturing of clothes, shoes, furniture, consumer electronics and home appliances.
One question, asked on Sept. 19, was why they pulled their application out of Baker County. Their consultant, Alberta Hipps, answered by stating that they had not applied for nor received an Air Permit. That may have been one reason, but the real reason was that Baker County citizens became organized and let IWMS know in no uncertain terms that they were not wanted in Baker. But Ms. Hipps is a hired consultant, just doing her job.
One reason IWMS likes Suwannee County is I-10 and I-75 access. Well, Ms. Hipps is from Duval County and I believe her county has access to I-10, I-95 and I-295. Build it there. I believe her county is also the one (Jacksonville Electric Authority) draining our aquifer at 1.5 million gallons per day. But that’s another story.
The majority of Suwannee Countians live here by choice! There is a lack of jobs, but that’s all over the country. People born and raised here plan to stay. They have been joined by people from all over the USA. Those of us who have moved here from other regions support them in protecting and preserving Suwannee County in the manner in which they have protected it for centuries.
What about our neighbors who live out there? Let’s say within a 5-mile radius. What would you be doing right now if you were in that radius? What about your kids, grandkids? Would you worry about their health? Mr. Barry said if you see light white smoke then the incinerator would be at five percent capacity. If you see black smoke, they would be at 100 percent. Black smoke? I guess this will just blow away and not fall into the Suwannee River or any of our many springs. If you lived near the catalyst site would you be trying to sell your property? Shouldn’t IWMS be required to buy you out? (See suggested Florida Statute below.)
I sincerely believe that we have a more important issue here than the medical waste incinerator or the saw mill. That issue is the relationship between our Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and their constituents. We elect commissioners and trust them to make decisions for us. A lot of minor decisions are made in our absence due to our lack of attendance at meetings. That’s OK because most of these decisions are somewhat mundane and simple, daily stuff. A medical waste facility is NOT. One commissioner spoke at the town hall meeting and stated his personal opinion but said that he would vote the way his constituents wished. Suwannee County citizens made their wishes clear on Sept. 19, and again at the BOCC meeting Oct. 1.
Commissioners, you need to let this one go.
Listen to your constituents and your neighbors. Regardless of the new changes in the Land Development Regulations, our BOCC, if they so choose, can inform the IWMS that we do not want them here. Not with malice, anger or threat of lawsuit, but in a nice manner by explaining that most Suwannee Countians bought and moved here because of the rural integrity of the county, because of the rivers, springs, parks, and recreational sources, and because THERE WAS NO MEDICAL WASTE INCINERATOR. Tell them that 104 jobs are not worth what we would all sacrifice. Commissioners, you would be having your single, most important vote of all time and making your best attempt at reconfirming Suwannee County’s trust in you all by denying the medical waste incinerator. The citizens are telling you and IWMS that we do not want their facility.
Some folks say that the BOCC can’t stop them now because of the LDR changes giving companies the right to locate at the catalyst site. Maybe – but the BOCC can vote to deny the land sale to whomever they wish. IWMS could attempt a purchase from the bank holding other land in that area, but a world of restrictions would then apply. Remember our county changes apply only to the catalyst site.
If you have read my commentary and you have an interest in pursuing additional articles, see “Health Care Without Harm” Issues: Waste Management, US & Canada at
http://www.noharm.org/us_canada/issues/waste/local.php. Following is a quote from this website: “Grassroots groups around the world are fighting polluting medical waste incinerators and winning. There is a clear global trend to close medical waste incinerators and replace them with safer, non-dioxin producing technologies. In the United States, more than 5,000 medical waste incinerators were in operation in the mid 1990s. Today, less than 100 [apparently now less than 60] medical waste incinerators remain in the U.S., due to community pressure, stricter pollution-control regulations, and activist groups such as on Health Care Without Harm.”
For those who will be seeking remuneration for loss of property value, see 2013 Florida Statutes, Title VI Civil Practice & Procedures, Chapter 70, Relief from Burdens on Real Property Rights. Consult an attorney; there are procedures for reasonable expenses and attorneys’ fees.
I have left out all of the scientific data and comments on purpose. My intent is to reason with our elected officials and IWMS to listen to Suwannee County’s citizens: We do not want your incinerator even if you offered 1,000 jobs!
Citizens and Commissioners: Let’s work together to create industry and jobs at the catalyst site. Let’s not rush and take anything that comes along. With planning and foresight we can make Suwannee County prosperous for residents and business people, and keep our rural integrity as is.
Also, here is an article regarding an incinerator in Utah: