Press Statement: HEAL Trashes Sandy Waste to Energy Permit Approval

HEAL Utah expressed frustration today after state officials approved a permit for Navitus Sustainable Industries, a proposed waste to energy facility in Sandy, UT.

The environmental group pointed out the allegedly miraculous technology that Navitus is peddling isn’t being commercially utilized anywhere in the United States.

“Siting this untested trash burning plant in a populated urban center, where we already have serious air problems, is flabbergasting,” says HEAL Utah’s Senior Policy Associate, Ashley Soltysiak. “Why would we use Sandy as a guinea pig for something with potential health risks and no obvious benefit?”

The Division of Air Quality issued its approval on Friday, making this facility, if built, the first of its kind and scale in the United States. This permit allows Navitus to burn household and industrial waste in the heart of Sandy and to use the resulting methane to make electricity.

One of the major problems with the proposal, says Soltysiak, is that there is little oversight of what exactly Navitus will be combusting in Sandy. “There are few limits on the materials that the facility can accept, leaving the door wide open for a barrage of unknown substances to be processed at the facility.”

If the wrong products enter the combustion chamber, Soltysiak points out, serious dangers arise. “The facility has the potential to emit some of the most dangerous chemicals known to human health, including dioxins and furans. According to the EPA, there is no known safe threshold for either of these compounds.”

Soltysiak noted, “In addition, this is a bad solution hunting for a problem that doesn’t exist. The fact remains that right now, tipping fees for landfills are quite low and landfill space in the Salt Lake Valley isn’t running out. It is not clear what problem this potentially costly and dangerous project is designed to solve.” According to a 2013 industry report, the highest tipping fees in Utah are about $33, making them about $16 less than the national average.

HEAL also pointed out that similar “clean” and “cheap” projects have failed across the county. One in Massachusetts called ZeGen was abandoned after a slew of operational problems and their CEO eventually characterized the project as a “folly.” Other proposed projects in Ottawa and Green Bay, Wisconsin, have stalled and failed to move forward due to a mix of  public concerns and cost.

Sandy residents and environmentalists including HEAL will certainly keep fighting the Navitus bid, said Soltysiak. It’s frustrating, she noted, that state officials accepted all of the company’s claims on paper, when there are no similar facilities elsewhere in the United States. “When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” she concluded.

For further comment, or to schedule an interview, Soltysiak can be reached at 616-485-8290.