About 30 protesters gathered outside the gates of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Agency's trash-to-energy plant in Hartford's South Meadows Monday evening to warn that they're ready to fight any attempt to increase the plant's capacity.
Dr. Mark Mitchell, president of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice and a longtime CRRA adversary, said the protesters were concerned the CRRA might close a smaller regional incinerator in Wallingford and bring even more trash to the Hartford plant, already the fifth-largest in the country.
Peter Egan, CRRA director of environmental affairs and development, confirmed an engineering feasibility study had been done about whether boilers could be added to the plant, but insisted it is hypothetical.
No decision has been made about what will be done with the 150,000 or so tons of trash now burned annually in Wallingford, he said. And any proposal to expand the Hartford incinerator, which receives about 2,850 tons a day from 70 towns, would be discussed with the city and Mitchell's group.
Mitchell's group had billed the demonstration as a "non-protest protest" against CRRA's "non-proposal" plan to expand the Hartford incinerator.
"They're not proposing and we're not protesting," said June O'Neil, chairwoman of Mitchell's board. "But if they do go ahead, this is what our protest would look like. This is like a dress rehearsal," she said.
It began almost ritualistically with Mitchell leading chants of "One, two, three, four - We don't want your trash no more" and "Zero waste is possible, incineration is criminal."
The Rev. Dr. Alvan N. Johnson, pastor of Bethel AME Church in Bloomfield, read a verse from the Book of Ezekiel, about shepherds who keep the best pastures for themselves and still trample the pastures of others, that he said was a biblical example of environmental injustice.
Like others, Johnson cited the high asthma rate among Hartford children, which has been linked to higher levels of air pollution. "Lungs are supposed to expand, not trash plants," he said.
Also participating in the protest were out-of-state members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. Its U.S. coordinator, David Ciplet, said the group would make Hartford a test case if the CRRA tried to expand the incinerator.
After the chants and speeches, some demonstrators angrily challenged Egan and CRRA public affairs director Paul Nonnenmacher at the plant's gate to defend the trash-to-energy plant's compliance with pollution regulations.
They said the plant was well within standards set by the state Department of Environmental Protection and challenged their questioners to show scientific evidence the plant contributed to Hartford's asthma rate.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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