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

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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.

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