But dioxins in the ashes of the waste byproduct are a serious environmental pollutant. Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway.
But a forensic audit of the debt completed in January said that the crisis would have been averted — or at least been far less severe — if the local officials and advisers had fully complied with state law...
The audit cites a series of certifications filed with the state assuring officials at the state Department of Community and Economic Development that mounting debt at the incinerator would all be paid for by revenues from the incinerator itself — and therefore should not count toward the city’s statutorily imposed borrowing limit.
Those certifications, the audit claims, flew in the face of reality. ...
[An audit team member] said as early as 1996, well before the 2003 retrofit project, officials should have seen warnings that the incinerator’s debt was not sustainable. And yet the parties involved continued to refinance and push forward.
The temperatures needed to break down dioxin are typically not reached when burning of plastics outdoors in a burn barrel or garbage pit, causing high dioxin emissions as mentioned above. While plastic does usually burn in an open-air fire, the dioxins remain after combustion and either float off into the atmosphere, or may remain in the ash where it can be leached down into groundwater when rain falls on the ash pile. Fortunately, dioxin and furan compounds very strongly bond to solid surfaces and are not solvated by water so leaching processes are limited to the first few milimeters below the ash pile. The gas-phase dioxins can be substantially destroyed using catalysts, some of which can be present as part of the fabric filter bag structure.
Modern municipal incinerator designs include a high temperature zone, where the flue gas is ensured to sustain a temperature above 850 °C (1,560 °F) for at least 2 seconds before it is cooled down. They are equipped with auxiliary heaters to ensure this at all times. These are often fueled by oil, and normally only active for a very small fraction of the time. Further, most modern incinerators utilize fabric filters (often with Teflon membranes to enhance collection of sub-micron particles) which can capture dioxins present in or on solid particles.
Fine particles can be efficiently removed from the flue gases with baghouse filters. Even though approximately 40% of the incinerated waste in Denmark was incinerated at plants with no baghouse filters, estimates based on measurements by the Danish Environmental Research Institute showed that incinerators were only responsible for approximately 0.3% of the total domestic emissions of particulate smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5) to the atmosphere in 2006.
Tax credits for plants producing electricity from waste were rescinded in the U.S. between 1990 and 2004
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