Residents fume about waste drug processing plant

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Residents in the Indiana town of Anderson, US are up in arms about Peat International’s plans to build a waste drug vaporizing plant.

The proposed facility, which would use similar high-temperature plasma arc technology to that employed in Peat’s facility in Gujarat, India, would be the first of its type in the US and be a key step in the firm’s strategy to develop its US business.

However, despite approval from the local zoning commission in November, several residents’ groups in the town have said that they will fight the project, arguing that information about the technology has not been made available.

One opponent Andrew Hopper told the Associated Press​ “there is no information whether or not that type of operation is safe​,” and added that "there are no other incinerators like this in the country.​"

Prior to this a public meeting on December 31 heard opinion from retired St Lawrence University chemistry professor Paul Connett about the potential risks associated with emissions from the plant.

He explained that: “Peat representatives have stated that the plant will emit mercury​,” which he said is known to cause birth defects, Alzheimer’s and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Connett added that: “this type of technology is also known to emit dioxin, which causes cancer. Peat representatives have stated that the plant’s emissions are within safe levels​.”

In response Nelson Slavik, a microbiologist who works with Peat on a consultancy basis, countered that the opposition to the facility was largely due to a misunderstanding of the company’s technology.

He explained that unlike incineration, which is a combustion process reliant on oxygen to burn and fully dispose of waste materials, Peat’s sealed plasma chambers are run at temperatures of 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit in oxygen-free conditions.

Slavik added that as a result any drug waste that is processed at the proposed facility is vaporised rather than burnt, significantly reducing the level of emissions.

Before construction and operation of the plant can begin, Peat still needs to receive a clean air permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

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