by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — More than 50 people came out for a presentation Tuesday at Logansport Memorial Hospital about how incineration plants can affect health.
The event was organized by Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, or CARE, a group of citizens who oppose the proposed power plant project in Logansport.
The proposed plant is currently under negotiation between the city and Pyrolyzer LLC, out of Boca-Raton, Fla. The plant would use a process called pyrolysis to heat refuse-derived fuel and combust the gas produced from it to power turbines and create electricity.
Dr. Norma Kreilein, a pediatrician with Daviess Community Hospital in Washington, Ind., spoke on how incineration plants can affect health. She has been involved with the opposition movement of a project aiming to convert a coal-fired generating plant in Jasper to one fueled by biomass and has briefed the U.S. Congress on the health hazards of biomass incineration.
“This isn’t just a power plant, it’s something happening in the community and something that will affect the health in the community,” Kreilein said at the hospital Tuesday.
Kreilein addressed the health effects of emissions of incineration plants, including how emitted chemicals can destroy cilia, the slender extensions of cells in windpipes that move the mucus layer atop it to discharge unwanted chemicals out of the lungs as a defense mechanism.
She said the chemicals present in emissions can cause cilia to fuse together and not function properly, allowing toxins to be absorbed into the bloodstream and create chronic diseases, adding that medicine is not effective in curing chronic diseases.
She went on to say there are dangerous chemicals in emissions small enough to go through a person’s nasal passage and into their brain.
Kreilein also addressed the byproduct of various industrial processes known as dioxin, a topic of much debate regarding the Logansport project. Kreilein said the highly toxic compounds mimic hormones to confuse the body and remain in men forever while leaving women only through breast milk.
Supporters of the project have said any emission of hazardous chemicals would be minute. Kreilein questioned how they could know if the project has never been carried out on the proposed scale.
Mercedes Brugh, a member of CARE, proposed an ordinance to Cass County Commissioners last month that would establish limits on new large incineration plants in the county. The commissioners have yet to decide whether it will be considered for a vote.
“Cass County needs a clean air ordinance,” Kreilein said.
Proponents of the project have said the plant will have to undergo a permitting process through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, or IDEM, have continuous monitoring and go through periodic testing.
Kreilein said rules that go further than IDEM’s are necessary. Illustrating her point, she referred to a slide depicting a map from IDEM’s website showing its particulate matter and other monitoring sites across Indiana, which are few and far between, especially in the northern part of the state.
A previous article about this event incorrectly stated Logansport Memorial Hospital physicians Kevin O’Brien, Craig Pawlowski and Beverly Ahoni would be participating in the discussion.
During the public comments portion of the event, Logansport City Councilman Bob Bishop, who supports the Pyrolyzer project, questioned if Kreilein would oppose the plant if it had less emissions than coal-fired plants.
“If we cut emissions by 90 percent, do you think it’s a good thing?” he asked.
Kreilein said it would be if it were proven to be true. She admitted that she didn’t know herself whether or not it was true, but that the tactics used during the beginning stages of the project are similar to those that were used in Jasper, which exposed holes she said she discovered in her research were common across the energy industry.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or email@example.com.