Opinion

Plant deserves a look

Anyone with memories of Rock Hill's ThermalKEM waste incinerator is certain to be wary of proposals to build a new facility in York County to burn waste. But the waste-to-energy facility being touted by some members of the York County Council is a different animal that may be worthy of a closer look.

After years of protests and legal battles, the incinerator operated by ThermalKEM near Vernsdale Road was dismantled in 1995. But this was a hazardous waste incinerator that was cited by state and federal regulators for numerous violations and fined nearly $14 million during its 15 years in the community for allowing toxic chemicals, such as dioxins and metals, to escape into the atmosphere.

The high-tech incinerator that Councilmen Joe Cox and Paul Lindemann want the county to consider is not a hazardous waste incinerator. It would be used to dispose of garbage and construction waste and create energy in the process.

A facility near Charleston visited by Cox and other county leaders last month uses the energy generated by burning waste to produce steam and electricity, which it then sells. Proponents of waste-to-energy plants point to the benefits of converting waste that otherwise would be dumped into a landfill to usable byproducts.

But the plants have drawbacks, too. For starters, they are expensive, costing as much as $300 million to build.

EPA regulations are stricter for waste-to-energy plants than for coal-fired power plants. Nonetheless, air pollution is an issue at both types of facilities.

Experts say that waste-to-energy plants aren't financially practical until they burn more than 1,000 tons of garbage a day. York County generates only about 400 tons of garbage a day.

But that easily could increase as the county's population grows and as development continues throughout the county. And Cox and Lindemann note that a waste-to-energy plant might be a sensible alternative to shipping local garbage to Richland County for disposal and a solution to the heated controversy over construction and debris landfills.

Such a facility would have some significant hurdles -- high initial cost, environmental concerns and long-term economic viability. But the idea should not simply be dismissed out of hand.

Projected growth justifies a careful appraisal of a plant that not only could handle the county's garbage and waste needs but also produce usable energy.

h memories of Rock Hill's ThermalKEM waste incinerator is certain to be wary of proposals to build a new facility in York County to burn waste. But the waste-to-energy facility being touted by some members of the York County Council is a different animal that may be worthy of a closer look.

After years of protests and legal battles, the incinerator operated by ThermalKEM near Vernsdale Road was dismantled in 1995. But this was a hazardous waste incinerator that was cited by state and federal regulators for numerous violations and fined nearly $14 million during its 15 years in the community for allowing toxic chemicals, such as dioxins and metals, to escape into the atmosphere.

The high-tech incinerator that Councilmen Joe Cox and Paul Lindemann want the county to consider is not a hazardous waste incinerator. It would be used to dispose of garbage and construction waste and create energy in the process.

A facility near Charleston visited by Cox and other county leaders last month uses the energy generated by burning waste to produce steam and electricity, which it then sells. Proponents of waste-to-energy plants point to the benefits of converting waste that otherwise would be dumped into a landfill to usable byproducts.

But the plants have drawbacks, too. For starters, they are expensive, costing as much as $300 million to build.

EPA regulations are stricter for waste-to-energy plants than for coal-fired power plants. Nonetheless, air pollution is an issue at both types of facilities.

Experts say that waste-to-energy plants aren't financially practical until they burn more than 1,000 tons of garbage a day. York County generates only about 400 tons of garbage a day.

But that easily could increase as the county's population grows and as development continues throughout the county. And Cox and Lindemann note that a waste-to-energy plant might be a sensible alternative to shipping local garbage to Richland County for disposal and a solution to the heated controversy over construction and debris landfills.

Such a facility would have some significant hurdles -- high initial cost, environmental concerns and long-term economic viability. But the idea should not simply be dismissed out of hand.

Projected growth justifies a careful appraisal of a plant that not only could handle the county's garbage and waste needs but also produce usable energy.

h memories of Rock Hill's ThermalKEM waste incinerator is certain to be wary of proposals to build a new facility in York County to burn waste. But the waste-to-energy facility being touted by some members of the York County Council is a different animal that may be worthy of a closer look.

After years of protests and legal battles, the incinerator operated by ThermalKEM near Vernsdale Road was dismantled in 1995. But this was a hazardous waste incinerator that was cited by state and federal regulators for numerous violations and fined nearly $14 million during its 15 years in the community for allowing toxic chemicals, such as dioxins and metals, to escape into the atmosphere.

The high-tech incinerator that Councilmen Joe Cox and Paul Lindemann want the county to consider is not a hazardous waste incinerator. It would be used to dispose of garbage and construction waste and create energy in the process.

A facility near Charleston visited by Cox and other county leaders last month uses the energy generated by burning waste to produce steam and electricity, which it then sells. Proponents of waste-to-energy plants point to the benefits of converting waste that otherwise would be dumped into a landfill to usable byproducts.

But the plants have drawbacks, too. For starters, they are expensive, costing as much as $300 million to build.

EPA regulations are stricter for waste-to-energy plants than for coal-fired power plants. Nonetheless, air pollution is an issue at both types of facilities.

Experts say that waste-to-energy plants aren't financially practical until they burn more than 1,000 tons of garbage a day. York County generates only about 400 tons of garbage a day.

But that easily could increase as the county's population grows and as development continues throughout the county. And Cox and Lindemann note that a waste-to-energy plant might be a sensible alternative to shipping local garbage to Richland County for disposal and a solution to the heated controversy over construction and debris landfills.

Such a facility would have some significant hurdles -- high initial cost, environmental concerns and long-term economic viability. But the idea should not simply be dismissed out of hand.

Projected growth justifies a careful appraisal of a plant that not only could handle the county's garbage and waste needs but also produce usable energy.

h memories of Rock Hill's ThermalKEM waste incinerator is certain to be wary of proposals to build a new facility in York County to burn waste. But the waste-to-energy facility being touted by some members of the York County Council is a different animal that may be worthy of a closer look.

After years of protests and legal battles, the incinerator operated by ThermalKEM near Vernsdale Road was dismantled in 1995. But this was a hazardous waste incinerator that was cited by state and federal regulators for numerous violations and fined nearly $14 million during its 15 years in the community for allowing toxic chemicals, such as dioxins and metals, to escape into the atmosphere.

The high-tech incinerator that Councilmen Joe Cox and Paul Lindemann want the county to consider is not a hazardous waste incinerator. It would be used to dispose of garbage and construction waste and create energy in the process.

A facility near Charleston visited by Cox and other county leaders last month uses the energy generated by burning waste to produce steam and electricity, which it then sells. Proponents of waste-to-energy plants point to the benefits of converting waste that otherwise would be dumped into a landfill to usable byproducts.

But the plants have drawbacks, too. For starters, they are expensive, costing as much as $300 million to build.

EPA regulations are stricter for waste-to-energy plants than for coal-fired power plants. Nonetheless, air pollution is an issue at both types of facilities.

Experts say that waste-to-energy plants aren't financially practical until they burn more than 1,000 tons of garbage a day. York County generates only about 400 tons of garbage a day.

But that easily could increase as the county's population grows and as development continues throughout the county. And Cox and Lindemann note that a waste-to-energy plant might be a sensible alternative to shipping local garbage to Richland County for disposal and a solution to the heated controversy over construction and debris landfills.

Such a facility would have some significant hurdles -- high initial cost, environmental concerns and long-term economic viability. But the idea should not simply be dismissed out of hand.

Projected growth justifies a careful appraisal of a plant that not only could handle the county's garbage and waste needs but also produce usable energy.

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