2010 April 21: MA Greenfield (& Russell & Springfield): Greenfield Board of Health asks state to help with monitoring with biomass project
April 21, 2010, 4:00PM
GREENFIELD – The Board of Health has written to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection expressing its concerns with the Pioneer Renewable Energy Biomass project and asking it to closely monitor the air quality for potential health hazards.
The letter, which was sent last week, puts special emphasis on possible air pollution from the facility, which is scheduled to be built along Route 2 near Interstate 91. The plant expects to burn 60 tons of wood per hour, the letter said. The board notes in its letter that there is a direct association between elevated emission levels and ailments such as respiratory disease and asthma.
Chairman David N. Taylor said the board is not satisfied with preconstruction air monitoring in the Geenfield-Turners Falls area, where some schools already show twice the state average for pediatric asthma.
“Without knowing where we started we can only guess at the magnitude of the possible deterioration in air quality we are being asked to accept,” the letter states.
The facility plans to use treated effluent from Greenfield’s wastewater treatment plant in its cooling tower. Some residents are worried that chemicals in that water from discarded pharmaceuticals could cause cancer or hormonal imbalances. The wastewater is now released into the Deerfield River, where it is diluted so that it does not pose a health hazard, Taylor said. The board has no evidence that the substances will be more harmful in a gaseous form, but have passed along the citizens’ concerns to the state, Taylor said.
The letter further notes that the ground ozone level in Western Massachusetts already exceeds recommended health standards and points out that the Greenfield biomass facility is one of three planned for the area.
Biomass plants are also proposed for Russell and Springfield. The state has suspended review of permit applications for the Springfield plant until an assessment of the environmental impact is completed for that and other plants that would burn construction debris.
“If all three biomass plants are built, there will be an overall 25 percent increase in (particulate matter) in the western Massachusetts region,” the letter states.
The board is asking for preconstruction air monitoring and an assessment of the impact of the biomass plant. It also suggests that the planned 250-foot-high smoke stack be extended to 300 feet. In addition, it asks that the biomass plant shut down on days when the particulate level in the air exceeds safe standards.
Taylor said much of the board’s message is precautionary.
“Right now we feel it’s safe, but it’s also prudent to protect the public,” he said.
In a chronology at the beginning of the letter, the board notes that it did not become aware of the project until the permitting process was well under way.
“We’re not pleased that all this was going on without anyone notifying or consulting us,” Taylor said.
Taylor said the board will present its recommendations again at a state permitting hearing that has yet to be scheduled.