Incinerator deal still up in the air, Catlin concerned about dioxin emissions

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Submitted: Thu, 10/25/2012 - 3:22am
Updated: Thu, 10/25/2012 - 5:05pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Time is running out for current New Hanover County Commissioners to talk trash. The county has been sitting on a deal with Covanta Energy to revamp their trash incinerator for a while. Now, one commissioner wants to look closer at potential emission levels, but will waiting to make a decision be too late for the current board?

With three commissioner seats up for election, it may be an entirely new board before a decision is made about what to do with the county incinerator.

For several months now, commissioners have been debating over whether to contract with Covanta to refurbish the county’s incinerator, which has been out of use since last year.

However, issues keep popping up with the deal. First it was flow control and now it’s air quality.
Commissioner Rick Catlin is concerned about the projected emission levels of dioxins, which he says is typically a problem with trash incineration.

“At certain levels it causes skin problems and it causes immune problems and it causes cancer,” Catlin says.

Catlin, who is running for NC House District 20, says he became aware of the potential concern through area environmental groups.

“I don’t know that it’s going to be an issue, but I wanted to ask the questions, so staff is working on those answers,” Catlin says.

Under the current proposed 20-year contract, the county would spend more than $32 million for Covanta to refurbish the incinerator. Catlin says though this decision could be handed off to a new board, it would be worth it in the end.

“This is a 20 year contract and you want to make sure you get it right,” Catlin says. “You only get one chance to get it right.”

I also spoke with Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield who does not agree with Catlin and says it’s time to put this deal to rest and sign the contract. He says there will always be questions raised, but the board has had ample time to discuss them.

Last month, the board voted 3-2 against the contract.


  • Thomas says:

    Finally, barfield gets tough and isn’t afraid to make a decision. Both of these guys are running for office. Catlin now waffles cause he doesn’t want to offend environmentalists. Take a position Rick…passing the buck ain’t no good.

  • Doc El says:

    He is not waffling…he knows the environment needs help not more one on the board is moving to a home near the incinerator to show it’s all good. Because it’s not. The level of emissions coming from 421 on days when the wind is out of the west is already high enough to choke you. We need better recycling systems and not the easiest quickest fix. Barfield needs to roll by the north side when all the stacks are blowing.

  • Vog46 says:

    In a city that incinerated it’s trash for years. They felt it as better to control the ash coming out rather than the mountains of trash that were going into our local landfill. The only thing the incinerator fell short on was the boast that it would take trash out of the landfill over time.
    That did not happen.

    Then I moved to Rhode Island for awhile and got used to curbside recycling which was great !! Landfill intakes rates plummeted. The state even got a high tech facility called the MURF. Mass Urban Recycling Facility. Now they just pick up the trash with all recyclables in one single container and send it to the MURF. It is scanned and computers separate the trash as it goes down the conveyors. It was a stunning success but had a lot of technical problems. They are finally not only recycling CURRENT trash pick ups but also taking trash OUT of the landfill for recycling.

    I’m all for recycling AND incineration as a joint effort to reduce landfill use….

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