Air Pollution Control Equipment Services, Emissions

Generating Buzz

Issue 9 and Volume 110.

Dead May Face Emission Controls

Public protests. Angry residents packing city council meetings. Banners unfurled reading “Over my dead body.”

Opposition to a power plant?

No, it’s just Californians up in arms over mercury emissions from crematoriums. Seems that politicians, environmentalists, health officials and local communities now fret over mercury emissions from dental fillings. The mercury apparently enters the atmosphere when bodies are cremated. A story in the Contra Costa Times newspaper reports that more than half the state’s dead are cremated. By 2010, the percentage could grow to 65 percent.

Several European countries already have rules to cut crematorium-related mercury emissions. Britain plans to reduce mercury emissions from this source by 50 percent in six years.

A 1999 report sponsored by the U.S.-based Cremation Association and the federal Environmental Protection Agency said cremation accounted for 238 pounds of mercury nationwide.

A California crematorium that cremates 3,000 bodies a year would emit around 20 pounds of mercury, an estimated 3 grams per corpse, the newspaper said. By comparison, a ConocoPhillips refinery in Rodeo, Calif., emitted 81 pounds in 2004, according to an air quality management agency.

City council members in San Rafael limited cremation to industrial parts of the city. San Leandro banned cremation anywhere in the city. And planners recently stalled a proposed 40-acre cemetery and crematorium in Livermore until more information about mercury emissions is gathered.

“One of the major challenges across the country is getting a crematorium put anywhere,” one person was quoted as saying. To which we say, “welcome to the club.”

Urban Farmer

Michigan State University is partnering with DaimlerChrysler to look at turning vacant industrial sites into fields to grow crops for ethanol and biodiesel production.

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The idea is to see if it’s possible that crops like soybeans, sunflower, corn and switchgrass can be grown on abandoned industrial sites. Another partner is NextEnergy, a nonprofit that supports energy technology development.

A test project is on a two-acre parcel that is part of a former industrial dump near Detroit. A second goal is to learn whether the plants contribute to bioremediation, meaning they take up contaminants from the soils, without affecting their quality for use as biofuels. This might make the plants especially useful to grow on contaminated brownfields.

Besides DaimlerChysler and NextEnergy, the three-year study has support from Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs), a state initiative.

DOE Foresees Plant-Induced Congestion

A report from the U.S. Department of Energy in August identified four areas where emerging grid congestion problems are a big worry and where new power lines will be needed: New England; the Phoenix-Tucson area in Arizona; the Seattle-Portland area in the Pacific Northwest; and the San Francisco Bay area.

The report also named areas that currently have enough power lines but will likely see congestion due to power plant construction. Those areas are Montana and Wyoming (likely sites for coal-burning power plants and windmills); South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota (also favorable for wind farms); the Kansas-Oklahoma area (ditto, wind); Illinois, Indiana and the upper Appalachia area (coal power plants); and the Southeast, where power from nuclear plants may find inadequate transmission resources.

Strength of Their Convictions

Not in My Prison Yard. That’s the message from more than 400 inmates at a Pennsylvania state prison half a mile from the site of a proposed coal gasification plant.

Some inmates signed a form letter saying, “the inmates and staff would be subjected to an unacceptable exposure to the toxic chemical fallout from this plant.”

John W. Rich, president of Waste Management and Processors Inc., claims the proposed $612 million coal gasification plant would be environmentally benign.

The Iceman Cometh (Again)

Back in great-grandpa and grandma’s day folks would cut ice from the pond with long saws during winter, pack it in sawdust in cellars and use some of it for ice cream making come summertime.

Seems the more things change the more they stay the same. The city of Anaheim, Calif., is offering a $21,000 rebate plus lower electricity rates for businesses that use something called the Ice Bear to reduce air conditioning demand. Rather than saw blocks of ice, the Ice Bear turns out to be an air conditioner add-on that works at night to make ice, which is then used during peak load times on hot summer days. At one Anaheim fire station where it’s been installed since 2004, the Ice Bear has both lowered peak period energy demand and kept the firemen cool. No word however, on whether the firehouse ice cream has that ol’ fashioned taste.