A well-known opponent of trash incinerators on Tuesday dismissed public health impact studies of massive incinerators such as the proposed SANDER project in Kearny Mesa as "bogus" and "pseudo-scientific rationalizations."
It is impossible for any scientist to predict the incidence of cancer caused by such waste-burning facilities, Paul Connett, a professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., said at an afternoon news conference in San Diego.
Connett's visit was sponsored by Citizens Advocating a Safe Environment and San Diegans for Clean Air, opponents of the SANDER project.
Connett's assertion amounted to an outright dismissal of a lengthy report released last week that declared the SANDER project to be "no significant health risk" to the public. The multivolume document stated that the furnace emissions, which include known and suspected carcinogens, would, over 70 years, pose a maximum risk of cancer between 0.06 in a million and 9 in a million.
Connett, author of "America's Rush to Incinerate Garbage--the Problems and Alternatives," said he was "appalled" that San Diego is considering such a project. "Mass-burn incineration is the most expensive, most problematic, the most dangerous and the most wasteful way of handling garbage," Connett said.
Frank Mazanec, regional manager of Signal Environmental Systems, which hopes to build the plant, disagreed. Mazanec, who said the range of the report's health risk assessment was "very conservative," criticized opponents for not providing any alternatives to SANDER, also known as San Diego Energy Recovery Project. He said he would welcome a comparison of SANDER to any alternative project.
Mazanec said the report, which reviewed solid-waste disposal in 20 major cities, concluded that there was "no competing technology," including landfill, which meets the city's objectives for solid-waste management.
However, Connett called such conclusions "not science but public relations. . . . The confidence that we are hearing is the confidence of big business, the confidence of people who are going to make megabucks out of continuing our environmental problems and our sloppy solid-waste habits."
Groups Oppose SANDER
The local chapter of the American Lung Assn. and a local society of allergists have come out against SANDER, which Signal officials say will emit nearly four tons of pollutants a day. Connett chastised city officials for extending a tentative agreement to Signal without giving equal consideration to other alternatives.
"There are so many rational, safe and cheaper alternatives to the garbage problem . . . before you go to this high-tech solution," Connett said.
Connett said he prefers methods of handling waste that create jobs for people rather than expensive "magic machines," such as incinerators. Separating garbage into recyclable elements--wood, glass, textiles, cardboard--organic compounds for composting and unsalvageable elements for deposit in landfills is a more workable solution that is used in European and some American cities, he said.
SANDER opponents hope to gain 80,000 signatures by June for the Clean Air Initiative, a proposal that would restrict the location of an incinerator, limit its output of pollutants, and require that toxic materials be removed before incineration.