HB 358 - An act relative to the combustion of wood residue at municipal waste combustors.
MAJORITY REPORT: OUGHT TO PASS (11-9):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you colleagues for two minutes of your kind attention.
This bill, HB358, protects public health by closing loopholes that allow the incineration of construction and demolition debris (known as CDD). Current law [RSA 125-C:10-c] permits burning CDD in municipal waste “trash to power’ plants like the one in Penacook.
What is CDD? CDD or “construction and demolition debris” is the scrap produced when a building is bulldozed, and the wood scrap is picked out with an excavator, along with masonry dust, painted wood, arsenic pressure-treated wood and plywood. Such debris, even when “cleaned” to current EPA standards, is still allowed to contain a mixture of questionable “grit”, “fines”, arsenic-treated wood and lead paint which make it unsuitable for burning.
There is no healthy or safe level for arsenic or lead - these are cumulative poisons that stay in your body forever if you consume or breathe them. Lead has long been known to cause profound impairment of mental development in children.
This bill “ought to pass”, because it removes existing language in current law allowing the lax limit of [quote] “no more than 10,000 tons per year” of CDD to be combusted. Ten thousand tons per year! Even at the contamination limits allowed by EPA for so-called “cleaned” CDD, burning 10 thousand tons of CDD permits the release of as much as 500 pounds of lead each year into the air. The lead that escapes up the chimney will rain down, blanketing downwind communities. Those lead atoms will not dissipate or become harmless over time. It becomes dangerous again whenever contaminated dust is stirred up on a playground, or it is absorbed by the crops in a vegetable garden.
You should be aware that synonyms for incineration are “pyrolysis” and “gasification”, but no matter which fancy word is used, current law ensures that end result is no better than plain old “burning” - 500 pounds of lead is still allowed to be released into the air annually, to rain out over downwind communities. HB358 fixes this, by removing exceptions in current law allowing pyrolysis or gasification of CDD as alternatives to combustion, as these essentially make a distinction without a difference.
Of course, burning untreated wood waste (like branches, wood chips, etc.) and eligible biomass fuels are specifically allowed, as is the collection of methane landfill gas derived from authorized waste facilities.
Lead in its solid form is not water soluble and will reside in a landfill forever without risk of flowing unexpectedly to another place. But some would say that “we cannot afford to send this contaminated wood waste to landfills”, or that “we can save money by incinerating it along with municipal trash”. How many dollars do we think we can save by cutting corners on proper disposal of CDD? Are those savings worth imperiling our health, and the health of our towns’ children for untold years?
Please protect our communities’ health, and support the majority’s recommendation for OTP on HB358. Thank you.
Ken Wells represents Andover, Danbury and Salisbury in the New Hampshire House of Representatives during the 2018-2020 session.