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Citizen group questions plant

The Concerned Citizens of Crawford County (and Harrison, too) is a group of 100-plus (and growing) local folks opposed to Liberty Green Renewables' proposed "Milltown Clean Energy facility" (as LGR referred to it in the Clarion's People Forum).

Why won't LGR use the word incinerator? (If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ) LGR called it "clean." My son's fifth-grade Scott Foresman science textbook says, "One disadvantage is that burning biomass does cause air pollution." Can air pollution be "clean"?

LGR says it's "clean" because it will produce less than 10 percent of the emissions of a coal-burning incinerator. Why would anyone think we need a potential 150-foot smokestack and 10 percent of the pollution of a coal incinerator next to the Blue River, a river the Indiana Natural Resources Commis-sion calls a "State designated Scenic River" with "statewide or greater significance" and "outstanding ecological importance"?

Why put it less than a mile as the crow flies (or the emissions fall) from Milltown Elementary School and less than one-half mile from Milltown residents? Why not put it in the industrial park?

Well, LGR says the site "has reasonable water supplies and discharge capabilities (Feb. 18, Clarion News)." They say they need 500,000 gallons of water a day, but our water district says it can't provide that. Other incinerators of this type and size dump 20 percent, or 100,000 gallons, of polluted water a day (LGR says that wastewater will contain "particulates" — they just don't say what kind of particles).

Where will it go? They don't say. They did say at a Milltown Town Council meeting that when it rains, the run-off goes right down the sinkholes. Sound like "reasonable discharge"? Maybe they'll run a pipe to the river; why else would they be seeking a permit from the Blue River Commission, who only oversees riverbank use? My kids swim, fish and kayak in that river. Milltown's biggest employers, the canoe rental and restaurants, rely on tourists who come to enjoy the river. Heck, we all love that river. How many folks will stop coming to canoe on it when they see that pipe and potentially up to 150-foot smokestack? If we lose 50 jobs to create 25, is it worth it?

LGR plans to burn 250,000 tons of wood a year. According to physics, that leaves 45 percent of 250,000 tons in an ash pile and ash ponds. Isn't it reasonable to think the pollution in that ash may leach down into all those sinkholes, then into the cave system, Blue River and maybe Milltown's water system, which comes from a nearby well, probably in the same aquifer. The Division of Water has written that "the majority of the sinkholes occur within one or two miles of the Blue River," just like this site, right on the top of the cave system Indiana calls "the Blue River Group," the "most extensive karst development in Crawford County." Isn't is reasonable to think that it may get in the neighbors' well water or come down onto the playground at Milltown Elementary and my gutter-fed cistern as acid rain (the common term for the sulfur dioxide LGR admits will come out of the stack)?

Heck, LGR said at the Milltown Council meeting that the sulfur they burn won't smell. The pollution from their incinerator is "clean." How can you burn sulfur without a smell? Moreover, they're only going to keep a 30-day supply of sawdust and wood chips there; that's only a 16,000-rick pile, a pile about eight feet high covering four football fields. Why won't the haze of dust particles that neighbors of incinerators of this type in other places, like Burlington, Vt., describe as "pungent odors, fugitive dust emissions and nauseating stack emissions" that cause them "headaches, nausea and respiratory problems" happen here?

Why won't the toxic formaldehyde and "vinegar-ammonia odors" produced by fermenting wood chips in Vermont come from this 16,000-rick pile? Why won't it leach into the groundwater through all those sinkholes here as it did in Vermont, polluting their class III municipal water system? When the wind blows, why won't that ash and dust get into the air? Why won't the penicillium that fungi in wood chips emit affect my son's asthma? These "intolerable concentrations of wood dust" folks in Vermont report have "inhalable and respirable (small enough to enter the lungs and stay there) particles that can remain suspended in the air for a year or more," according to that town's impact report. Why won't it happen here at the intersection of state roads 64 and 66 next to the river?

If you're like me and would miss seeing the stars at night near Milltown or fishing and swimming in the river or breathing clean air, join us at the Crawford County Commissioners' meeting tomorrow evening (Thursday) to let them know to please think twice before giving LGR a tax abatement for this incinerator. Remember: The Trojan horse looked really good when the Greeks rolled it up to Troy as a gift. The Trojans brought it right into town. While they slept that night, the enemy climbed out of that gift horse (perhaps they should have looked it in the mouth) and killed them all.

Join your neighbors, the Concerned Citizens of Crawford (and Harrison) County.

For more information, visit our Web site at www.concernedcounty.org.

Mark R. Woods, Co-chair of the Concerned Citizens of Crawford (and Harrison) County
February 25, 2009

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