Dear Editor: While the test results provided by Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) for the Colbert plant appear to be going in the right direction, pollution from the anticipated emissions is staggering. We accept the determination by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division that the self-reported test results are within limits.
The test methods are not specified in all cases, and the test method for VOC’s — method 25A as noted in the GRP application, should be discounted and a re-test done since the EPA acknowledges that this test method is not quantitatively accurate. There is no explanation of the reason for such a dramatic drop in VOC’s (from 199 tons/year previously estimated to 1.94 tons/year currently estimated), and that leaves the VOC test results in question. We will ask EPD to investigate further. GRP should not be given any approvals until all re-testing has been completed and reported to EPD.
Biomass power plants have been given every advantage by the EPA. Despite having relaxed emission standards by EPA and EPD compared to coal-or-oil-fired plants, and allowed to be designated a “minor source” if emitting less than 250 tons of pollutants per year (as compared with 100 tons per year for coal plants), the inefficiency of the biomass plants for energy production causes release of about 50 percent more carbon dioxide (CO2) per megawatt-hour than a coal plant. Biomass plants also emit more carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), VOC’s, and particulate matter per megawatt-hour than coal plants. That is why many biomass plants are being abandoned. They are not “clean power.”
A quick scan of the deadly pollutants coming from the plant’s stack each year (using GRP’s own data) shows that more than 15,650 pounds of individual known or probable human carcinogens (1,2 dibromoethane, acetaldehyde, benzene, hexavalent chromium, and styrene) will be released each year. In addition, according to the suspect VOC data provided by GRP, there will be a release of more than 2940 pounds of VOC’s, including many known carcinogens such as creosote compounds and naphthalene from the railroad crossties. As if that is not enough the 307,700 pounds of toxic acid gases emitted each year (carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide) will contribute to haze, smog, ozone, and numerous health effects especially to the skin, lungs and heart. We still await the results of the toxic chlorine and hydrogen chloride emissions. GRP did not provide a test result for carbon dioxide, which is one of the most significant pollutants for these plants. Now add the particulate matter of more than 41,385 pounds per year emitted from the stack causing numerous health problems, and then add the other heavy metals released such as lead, manganese, and arsenic and we have additional health threats invading our water and soil.
The stack emissions are part of the problems still not resolved, including pollution from surface area runoff into our streams and groundwater. There is also the daily reminder of the noise from the steam, fans, grinding of railroad crossties, and other plant operations.
So while we are encouraged but suspicious of the test results, having been previously given false information by GRP, we stare at the anticipated thousands of pounds of pollutants to be released currently and into the future and visualize the unhealthy lifestyle we will endure. And that is unacceptable.
Retired from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention