Trash debate focuses on incineration issue

March 11, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The debate over how Anne Arundel County should dispose of its trash into the next century continued last night, and the focus, not surprisingly, continued to be on the controversial question of incineration.

Last night's forum -- one of many sponsored by the county, environmental groups and community associations in recent weeks -- was sponsored by the county's League of Women Voters and drew about 20 people to the Annapolis Elks Lodge.

What is being debated at the forums is the county's 10-year solid waste plan, which sets goals for increased recycling and a reduction in the amount of waste generated by county.

What causes sparks during the forums is the question of whether the county should build a waste-to-energy incinerator for the trash that is not recycled or eliminated.

The county must decide by July 1995 whether to build an incinerator or find 500 acres for a new landfill.

After an explanation of the plan by James Pittman, a county solid waste official, and Newth Morris, chairman of the citizen solid waste advisory panel, citizens went to the heart of the matter.

Walter Jacobs, a member of several local environmental groups, said he thought the county was being disingenuous by calling it a waste-to-energy facility instead of just calling it an incinerator.

"I'm just dubious about the subterfuge, in my opinion, that you're presenting us with," he said.

Mr. Pittman said he uses the terminology to distinguish the more modern facility being considered by the county -- which burns trash and converts the heat into steam or electricity that can be sold -- and the old-fashioned, low-technology, solid waste incinerator.

"You can call it whatever you want, but these are two different types of facilities," he said.

Morton Corn, a Johns Hopkins University professor specializing in environmental health, agreed on that point. The old-fashioned incinerators burned trash at 1,600 degrees to 1,800 degrees, and the modern waste-to-energy facilities burn waste at higher temperatures.

"So you have a very sophisticated combustion unit vs. the old municipal incinerator vs. the old backyard incinerator. You have a progression here," he said.

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