Western Resource Advocates Opposing Permitting of the Navitus Trash Incinerator by Utah

Joro-Walker“Navitus’ proposal for a waste incinerator to generate energy is not backed by adequate data and analysis – and without considerably more information, permitting this plant to generate toxic air pollution and waste is unreasonable. Utah must step up to protect our residents and environment.”

– Joro Walker, WRA lead attorney challenging the Navitus Incinerator permitting.

Navitus Plans to Process 350 tons of Waste a Day

Navitus claims that its proposed Sandy City incinerator will convert the densely populated city’s trash and solid waste (which could include plastics, metals, painted materials, batteries, chlorinated paper, industrial byproducts and household chemicals) along with unidentified industrial waste into a gas that could be used to generate electricity.  The facility is proposing to process 350 tons of waste each day. This would be the first waste-to-energy facility of its kind in the United States.

Waste Incineration Produces Air Toxics

Waste incineration is known to produce air toxics such as dioxins/furans, mercury, lead and contaminated ash. Navitus has never built a waste incinerator and has not tried in any way to characterize the emissions of air pollution that will come from the plant. The plans are to heat the waste between 1,600 and 1,800 degrees and produce a synthetic gas. That syngas would be put in a generator to create electricity. Navitus merely assumes that the synthetic gas will not produce hazardous air pollution. There is no proof that this is indeed the case.

Moreover, there are no limitations on what trash the plant will accept. So any municipal or industrial waste can be burned.  This further underscores that Navitus does not know and cannot know what air toxics its plant will emit.   Also of grave concern is that the plant will operate a flare that would bypass normal operations and would likely release a great deal of dioxin and other toxics under uncontrolled conditions.   There are currently no limits on the number of hours this flare may operate.

Dioxins from the Plant Could Cause Cancer, Birth Defects and other Health Problems

Dioxins can trigger health effects at extremely low concentrations. Indeed, there is no known level below which dioxins are known to be harmless. Dioxins have been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, abnormal sexual development, birth defects, immunosuppression, behavioral disorders, diabetes, and altered gender.

Utah Proposing to Permit Navitus Incinerator Despite Inadequate Analysis, Data and Controls

Unfortunately, the state of Utah is proposing to permit this waste incinerator – the first of its kind in the US – with minimal analysis and minimal data.  The proposed permit is not based on any data regarding the actual emissions from the facility or even on lab results – but rather is based on a foundationless assumption that burning the synthetic gas created by heating trash is identical to burning methane. It is clear that the synthetic gas produced by this plant will not be 100% methane. In addition the “controls” on emissions are not proven for the type of gas the plant produces. The agency is not limiting or requiring monitoring, recordkeeping or reporting of potential emissions of dioxins/furans, mercury, lead, fugitive ash or other hazardous pollutants anticipated to result from the operations.

Navitus Plans for Storing and Transporting Toxic Waste Are Insufficient

In addition to air pollution, the plant operations will generate ash and “slag,” left over after the heating process. This ash and slag will contain dioxins and other pollutants. Disposal of this toxic waste is a significant concern. Persistent organic pollutants are associated with incineration ash – and these have been linked to numerous adverse effects in humans and animals. Those include cancer, central nervous system damage, reproductive disorders and immune system disruptions. Other pollutants in the ash have been linked to a wide variety of adverse health outcomes such as impaired fetal growth, decreased birth weight and size, and abnormal sex chromosomes. Current plans do not adequately address how to store and transport this toxic waste so that Utah residents and the environment will not be exposed to contaminants.

Western Resource Advocates Calls on State to Stop Plant Operations and Protect Utah’s Air, Communities and the Environment

Western Resource Advocates is participating in all available legal processes, and our attorney is calling on the Division of Air Quality in Utah to deny the proposed permit currently before the agency and to demand, at a minimum, significantly more information on the facility, including a characterization of the plant’s emissions. We will exhaust all legal avenues to ensure this waste incinerator does not contribute more toxic pollution to Utah’s air, communities and environment.

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Project Staff

Rob Dubuc

Rob Dubuc

Staff Attorney, Utah Office

Joro Walker

General Counsel