CLEVELAND — Cleveland Public Power proposed building a garbage incinerator at the Ridge Road Transfer Station on Cleveland’s West Site. It would have involved cooking trash at high temperatures and releasing toxic pollutants into the air, in a process known as “gasification.”
As proposed by the city, this new incinerator would have become one of the largest air polluters in Cuyahoga County, releasing soot, lead, mercury, dioxin, and other pollutants into the air. Hundreds of residents of Cleveland and the neighboring suburbs attended public meetings in 2012 and 2013 to voice their opposition to this proposal.
The City of Cleveland finally withdrew their application to build the incinerator from the Ohio EPA on September 3, 2013. Action from individual citizens, Earth Day Coalition, Environmental Health Watch, Northeast Ohio Sierra Club, and Ohio Citizen Action helped stop the incinerator.
The incinerator made no sense
On February 23 2012, the U.S. EPA told Cleveland Public Power that its proposed facility would be an incinerator and must follow the rules as such rather than as just a “gasifier” like the city claimed. The U.S. EPA said the incinerator would be considered a new “major” source, and would be subject to stronger monitoring and pollution reduction measures than “minor” sources are.
Cleveland Public Power fired Peter Tien, the developer they gave a no-bid, $1.5 million contract, who was also responsible for the 2010 LED lightbulb fiasco. He was fired for bad math, wrong facts, and poor grammar in the design report. The draft air permit is based on figures from this design. How did Cleveland Public Power revise the numbers for its air permit without a design to base them on? Cleveland Public Power only started looking at other incinerator process providers after signing their failed contract with Tien, and used an additional $250,000 to review these other proposals.
After the City finally pulled the permit, they reached a settlement to pay Peter Tien $250,000.
How we won
• writing personal letters to Mayor Jackson • putting yard signs in our yards • downloading and printing our own red “No Cleveland Incinerator” and green “Yes Composting/Recycling signs and putting them on t-shirts and in our windows • inviting speakers to come to high school classes • participating in campaign strategy meetings • attending the city’s public meetings • recruiting our neighbors to come to the meetings • testifying at the hearings • sending written comments to the Ohio EPA on the air pollution permit • signing an on-line petition against the incinerator and forwarding it to our friends • circulating a petition among friends, neighbors, and at public events • organizing and attending “Street Corner Saturdays” at the West Side Market, holding up “No Cleveland Incinerator” signs and talking with passers-by about the issue • attending City Council meetings • calling or meeting with our own members of City Council • attending or speaking at press conferences and protests • writing letters to the editor or “op ed” pieces in newspapers • calling in to radio shows about the issue • taking our “no incinerator” signs to other events • talking with the mayor at public events • researching the issue, including claims made by the city about the incinerator, and telling others what we’ve learned • investigating and promoting alternatives to the incinerator, like composting and recycling • going to block club meetings to tell people about the issue • contacting community leaders to get them involved asking our children to draw pictures to send to the mayor or other officials • taking photos at events and posting them on-line, commenting of Facebook pages, community blogs and other social networking • contacting people who have fun similar campaigns in other areas, learning from them, spreading ideas • asking small businesses to put up signs or give information to their customers • wearing “no incinerator” buttons • creating visual art and playing music at community meetings • going door-to-door in our neighborhoods
Hope for the future
Ohio Citizen Action and others brought Neil Seldman from the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Bob Gedert of Austin Resource Recovery to Cleveland as experts in comprehensive re-use and recycling on June 2, 2012. Citizens continue to work for increased recycling and composting in our communities.
In spite of the City of Cleveland’s efforts to build a polluting incinerator, Cuyahoga County continues to improve in recycling.