A polluted Purple Valley

Every action has a reaction – a basic tenet of science and life. The proposed biomass plant in Pownal is no different, and all of the people who will be impacted need to be informed in order to make a wise decision on the potential impacts on our area and on our lives.

Every project with an economic purpose will have its proponents. Profit is the essential motive. To gain approval the promoters need to “sell” the merits of their profit-making venture to the populace. If they can convince enough people and move fast enough, they have a good chance of success.

And so it would go with the latest poor idea for the former Pownal racetrack, the biomass “incinerator” power plant. A biomass plant spewing out toxins while deforesting the area surrounding us would be a burden and attack on our health and way of life we should not accept.
I leave to others with the proper expertise to inform us in detail about the toxic particles that will waft through our air and over our beautiful communities. Will there be a higher incidence of respiratory complaints by local residents? Will there be a long-term negative impact to the ground water we eventually drink? Will we absorb harmful toxins from the air we breathe and soon see a higher cancer rate? If any of these terrible side effects do eventually surface, it will be far too late to do anything about them as the plant will have been long established and the damage done.

We surely remember the legacy left by other large employers in the area. Jobs were abundant, and back then we were largely unaware of the toxins released, the plants were accepted and allowed to pollute the environment. How about the PCBs from GE and Sprague that have permanently contaminated our riverbeds and even ground water? Some of the pollution was removed at great expense, but much is there forever. A few companies created large payrolls, siphoned off large profits from the backs of the workers and then left the area, burdening the remaining residents and environment with the leftovers.

A biomass incineration plant in Pownal is the latest wolf in sheep’s clothing. We are being told of all the wonderful benefits to the area, most notably of course, the jobs. Yet, how much do we know about this company or their directors and their history as employers? The information, as it turns out, is actually available on the Internet. The information is certainly not all that positive and leaves considerable concern.

Every politician who has half a sense knows that the best line to garner votes is to promise jobs and cut taxes. Every company wanting to open a plant with a serious downsides has to promise loads of jobs. They will do this in part by using tax incentives with our own hard earned money. Ironically, the plant is to be highly subsidized with various tax incentives paid in part by the very people who hope to get jobs there, plus the rest of us.

What can I predict with a degree of certainty based on my own field of expertise? Deterioration in property values proportional to the distance one’s property lies from the plant and the prevailing winds.

Noise levels will rise. Anyone who lives within earshot of the noises that will come from such an operation will experience a loss of property value and maybe even a loss of any possibility of sale completely. The incessant beeps when trucks are reversed, the sounds of logs being unloaded and the steady stream of heavy trucks rumbling along our roads will reverberate through the valley.

Aside from noise pollution will be the inevitable air pollution. Say what they will to try to minimize the fallout factor, there will be air quality degradation. For decades our region has suffered the effects of acid rain from Midwestern coal-fired power generation plants that lie 800 to 1000 miles away. Anyone living downwind of a biomass incineration plant will eat, breathe and drink this new pollution source, whether it falls on your nice vegetable garden, sinks through the soil to your well water or simply is inhaled as you go about your daily life.
Would you willingly choose to move to a more toxic environment, say to live next to an oil refinery or to take water from a polluted river? Of course not, if you have a choice. We have a choice still, but it will soon be too late if we don’t act promptly and forcefully to say no to the latest potential threat to our health and lifestyle.

Do not allow the promoters, lawyers and executives (none of whom will live in the vicinity of this plant) to sell you on a pipe dream of clean air and lots of jobs without first insisting on hard economic data and objective scientific proof from totally independent sources not on the company payroll. The science is there about the negative health effects and the history is there of prior failed economic prosperity and growth.