More than 100 UC San Diego students, angered by plans to allow a test burn at a toxic waste incinerator near the campus, held a rally Tuesday afternoon and then marched to the proposed burn site on Torrey Pines Mesa.
Chants of “Stop the burn where we learn” filled the air as the students marched from Revelle Plaza to Genesee Avenue, just outside the offices of Ogden Environmental Sciences, the company that plans to conduct the test. Several dozen police officers on motorcycles milled around the area, and the company set up barricades to prevent students from coming onto the property.
For a short time, the students sat at the entrance to the company as passing motorists honked their horns and waved.
‘Some Pretty Nasty Stuff’
“We want to let them know we’re concerned and to try to have some kind of impact on the final decision, if, by chance, they’ll overturn the decision,” said 24-year-old Russell Flinkman, co-founder and principal member of the Wilderness Club at UCSD, which sponsored the rally. The county Air Pollution Control District approved the test burn.
“They want to burn some pretty nasty stuff, and they haven’t shown they can burn 100% of it. They haven’t done the necessary risk assessments to show it’s safe. We’re questioning the grounds on which the permits were granted. They need to prove to us it’s safe,” said Flinkman, a management science major at UCSD. “We’re not completely opposed to the technology if they show it can work.”
Guy Berlinger, a 19-year-old physics major from La Jolla, said the incinerator site is in an area where air pollutants are often concentrated. “We don’t need another source of emissions,” he said.
But Ogden officials said the students’ complaints are nothing new and that those concerns have already been addressed through studies by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health Services.
“There’s no factual basis for any information they’ve offered,” said Joseph G. Charest, spokesman for Ogden. “Again and again, it’s been disproved by the EPA and the state (Department of Health Services). . . . What it boils down to is the risk of emissions, and there’s no danger of that.”
Tried to Block Project
The as-yet unscheduled test burn will be the first since a federal judge barred the City Council from regulating operation of the facility. The council tried to block the project by denying the permit for the incinerator.
Charest also charged that a local environmental group, the Environmental Health Coalition, instigated the campus opposition. “The EHC has been the catalyst for all of the activity in opposition,” he said.
Flinkman acknowledged that the march was done in connection with the EHC, but said the Wilderness Club organized the event.
The air pollution district “is listening to public sentiments until Thursday, so we threw this together,” he said. The agency has refused to hold a public hearing on the test burn, but will hear public comments until Thursday.