Jun 16, 2023

Opponents rally against possibility of a new incinerator in Broward

Mary Stephens, a longtime Pembroke Pines homeowner, worries about the possibility of an incinerator being built near her Pembroke Pines community.

Like some of her neighbors, she says the potential addition would spoil the quality of her neighborhood, where she has lived for 28 years. “I’ve been losing sleep, I’m really freaked,” Stephens said. She lists her concerns: “The air quality, the noise, my house value.”

Upset residents have united against the potential for an incinerator being added to county property off U.S. 27 near Pembroke Pines and Southwest Ranches. County officials say while it’s possible a waste-to-energy plant could be built in the southern portion, there is no plan in the works now and officials said it would be a last resort, because of the expense, the environmental concerns and the public pushback.

Moving forward, part of the decision would hinge on whether Broward residents can learn how to recycle enough to stave off efforts to build another incinerator in the county.

“It all depends on what is needed,” County Commissioner Beam Furr said.

“Could it be there?” Furr asked of a potential incinerator. “Yes. Everything is on the table. But I will tell you there is an emphasis on trying to reach 75% recycling and the reason is if you can reach 75% recycling, you don’t have to build another incinerator.

“If we can’t reach 75%, we have to find someplace for that garbage to go. We don’t want to be adding more to the landfill.”

Pembroke Pines recently hosted a Town Hall meeting for residents to voice their concerns. In attendance was Richard Ramcharitar, of Southwest Ranches, who is one of the organizers of Broward Clean Air. The group formed in June for fear of an incinerator being built.

“Human health is a major issue,” he said. “We’re not just concerned about ourselves, but the entire community,” including animals.

He worries if there were an accident, like what happened in Miami-Dade County in February, there would be “no way to evacuate animals fast enough.”

Ramcharitar was referring to the fire at the incinerator plant in Doral, in Miami-Dade County. The smoke from the trash fire reached unhealthy levels, and forced people indoors and two nearby schools closed early and canceled outdoor activities. Officials had encouraged nearby residents to wear masks, run their air conditioning at home to recirculate air, and roll up vehicle windows while driving through.

Miami-Dade’s mayor is recommending the county-owned plant remain shuttered, and replaced with a new incinerator about eight miles away at an airfield, which sits within several miles of the Everglades, the Miami Herald reported.

Southwest Ranches is a town near the Broward County site, where residents are getting increasingly concerned. The town council passed a resolution last month urging the county not to build an incinerator near its borders, stating that such a plant would be “incongruous to the town’s desire to maintain its rural lifestyle” and saying that empirical data suggests such “plants negatively impact the environment by emitting harmful contaminants into the atmosphere.”

Steve Winner, of Southwest Ranches, said it was “ludicrous to consider an archaic form of trash disposal at the foot of the Everglades in an area we’re trying to preserve.”

The worry comes as the majority of Broward’s cities have voted to create a new taxing authority that will be tasked with handling trash and recycling.

Pembroke Pines voted last week against the move, becoming one of three cities that didn’t join in. But the majority of the 31 Broward municipalities did back the plan. Now, as efforts get underway to create a master plan, the formalities and organization begin in September. Voting into the system also means those cities are pledging their garbage to the system.

It will come down to disposal of both trash and recycling: “Where does trash go when it’s picked up (and) where is it going to go?” said Furr, who is the vice chairman of the Solid Waste Working Group, the group of elected officials who are trying to enhance Broward’s recycling capabilities and reduce waste.

Among the choices for the waste: burn it in an incinerator, recycle it, bury it in the landfill, or compost it. “Or other options they are doing in Europe that I am looking at,” Ross said. “Israel is doing something different. Everyone is doing something different.”

Recycling in Broward reached a high in 2012 at a rate of 60% of the waste. But then the numbers of recycling items plummeted, while the landfill rate went up. The rate of recycling the waste now hovers at nearly 31%, Furr said.

Broward generates four million tons of garbage every year, Furr said. “That has to be dealt with,” he said.

Among the options:

“My hope is we recycle so much” that there is no more need for an additional boiler or incinerator to handle trash.

Still, for now, “there is no plan yet,” Furr said.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

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