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Sludge incinerator cited for cancer-causing emissions


Dec 20, 2007


A local environmental group says a proposed north sewage incinerator could double the amount of dioxins going into Hamilton’s air and dramatically increase emissions of several other toxic chemicals.

Environment Hamilton (EH) has released its analysis of the air pollution that can be expected from the Liberty Energy sewage sludge gasification plant proposed for Strathearne Avenue. It uses  Liberty’s own documents, and compares the resulting emission levels with existing amounts of pollution going into Hamilton’s air as recorded in the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) for 2006.

EH calculates dioxin emissions could more than double, giving Hamilton nearly 30 percent of air releases of one of the world’s deadliest chemicals. Dioxin is part of the “dirty dozen” chemicals recommended for a global ban. It causes cancer and low levels can disrupt immune and endocrine systems in humans.

EH also says that the Liberty plant could generate over four tonnes a year of bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), a potential carcinogen that is used to soften PVC plastics. The NPRI reports only a little over 9 tonnes were released in the entire country last year – none of it in Hamilton.

Liberty, a California-based company, has been working for nearly three years in Hamilton to obtain necessary approvals to process approximately 400,000 tonnes a year of sewage sludge, mixed with up to 150,000 tonnes of waste wood. The company says it will generate enough electricity for 8000 homes.

The city approved rezoning of the Strathearne Avenue site in the summer of 2005 and Liberty released an environmental screening study in December of that year. That was met with demands for a much more rigorous environmental assessment from more than a dozen organizations and scientists, including the city and EH. The provincial government responded last spring by reclassifying the project from an electricity-generating to a waste management facility and requiring another screening.

That second study was filed earlier this fall, with a deadline for comments to the Ministry by December 10. Both the city and EH are again calling for a full environmental review.

The local group also argues the incinerator could double city-wide releases of napthalene, and triple the whole country’s emissions of 1,4-dichlorobenzene, another known carcinogen and a suspected neurotoxicant. Currently there are no records of the latter chemical being released in Hamilton.

Noting that the Liberty Energy facility is intended to deal with “most of the sewage sludge generated in southern Ontario”, EH executive director Lynda Lukasik challenges its location in Hamilton.

“Is it fair to Hamiltonians that this facility might be approved to be built here without any requirement to consider alternative methods of managing Ontario’s sewage sludge, and without any consideration of other potential locations?” she asks. Where has the provincial Ministry of the Environment been on the issue of sewage sludge management in Ontario.”

City councillors recently gave approval in principle to the construction of an incinerator to deal with Hamilton’s annual load of 53 tonnes of sewage sludge, leaving the Liberty Energy facility to haul in all its feedstock from other communities. The company estimates this will require over 28,000 truckloads a year.

The table below is reproduced from the Environment Hamilton media release: 
  ParameterNational Pollutant Release Inventory 2006 Annual Emissions to Air Liberty Energy Annual

Maximum Emissions to Air

Total to airCanadaTotal to air OntarioTotal to airHamilton
Dioxins (TEQ)52 grams11 grams1.804 grams1.943 grams
Bis(2-ethylhexyl)Phthalate  (DEHP) 9.632 tonnes 0.217 tonnes 0 4.068 tonnes
Napthalene98 tonnes54 tonnes20 tonnes9.46 tonnes
1,4-dichlorobenzene8.274 tonnes1.758 tonnes024.13 tonnes
 See www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/npri/ for 2006 NPRI data. 

The Liberty Energy maximum emission numbers were calculated using maximum emission rates provided in the company’s Human Health Risk Assessment Report, Volume 1, Table 3 (Conestoga Rovers & Associates, 2007)



[1] See www.ec.gc.ca/pdb/npri/ for 2006 NPRI data. 

[2] The Liberty Energy maximum emission numbers were calculated using maximum emission rates provided in the company’s Human Health Risk Assessment Report, Volume 1, Table 3 (Conestoga Rovers & Associates, 2007)

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