Friday, 22 May 2009

Quick Burn-Fast Buck, the Perverse incentives to Pollute and Commercial Confidentiality

Virtually all the serious breaches of incinerator emissions laws in America and France are related to the burner being paid by the lorry-load. The slower burn is the safer burn, the completer burn. What happens when you want to burn those autumn leaves quicker, and put too much on the bonfire? It gets smoky straightaway and sometimes even goes out.
So, when an incinerator is commissioned, and has test burns for about a year,(England’s newest and best…Colnbrook….has been having problems here), people can work out the maximum rate of inputs to the burner air flows and the chimney draughts and ash catching methods. It’s like tuning a tuba, or a horn. So people can come up with optimum speeds for doing the job right.

France had an incinerator company, with government connections, whose management told the workforce to become “more productive”. In order to deal with more lorries they shut down the safety equipment (the chimney ash collectors),speeded up the screw feed drives and did this all at night, so that the inhabitants did not see the plume of smoke this tinkering produced. The local cancer rates shot up and , the locals blogged,7,000 cattle had to be slaughtered because of becoming “dioxinated”.

In the USA more than half of the breaches reported by a federal agency were related to speeding up the feed drives or bypassing the safety chimneys, or both.

Do you want “commercial confidentiality” to block public oversight of these issues? Do you really trust any government to put public safety first, above their version of a cost-benefit equation (where the mortality figures are often skewed)?

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