If Carroll County builds a trash-burning incinerator, county residents will live with the decision for 20 years, an incinerator opponent warned last night.
"When you have an incinerator, you can't turn the flame off," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, state director of Clean Water Action of Maryland. "If you don't have enough trash, you have to go get some more."
She spoke during a panel discussion sponsored by the county League of Women Voters at Carroll Community College.
If the county doesn't generate enough trash to keep an incinerator going, the local government is likely to have to import trash, Ms. Perkins said.
She said the 20-year commitment is based on economics. An incinerator usually has to remain in operation at least that long to retire the bond issue that financed its construction, she said,.
The county commissioners have a citizens committee studying the feasibility of building an incinerator that would burn trash to generate steam.
The league sponsored the discussion because, as one member noted, the organization may have to take a position and do some lobbying on the trash-incineration issue.
Panelists clashed on how much an incinerator would increase air pollution.
Ms. Perkins and Mary Rosso, president of the Maryland Waste Coalition and neighbor of a hazardous waste site, argued that even state-of-the-art incinerators pollute.
Michael Gagliardo, executive director of the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, countered that, "Properly operated and designed facilities do not pose an unacceptable health risk."
The authority operates incinerators in Baltimore and Harford County and will operate the planned incinerator near Dickerson in Montgomery County.
A panelist from the Maryland Department of the Environment asserted that tobacco and diet are more likely causes of the state's high cancer rate than air pollution. That produced a skeptical response.
"Do you expect me to believe there is something so different about the diet and lifestyle in Baltimore that it accounts for 98 percent of the difference in the cancer rate?" one spectator asked.