Two highly polluting incinerators in downtown Seattle threaten the lives and health of Seattle's low-income and homeless people. The fumes from these toxic burners -- one operating now and one planned soon -- would also threaten two iconic Seattle tourist attractions and business centers: Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square. Seattle's low-income and homeless people will suffer if we fail to stop these two lethal incinerators.
Seattle Steam has been supplying steam heat to downtown buildings since 1893. Its plant at 1319 Western Ave., two blocks south of Pike Place Market, originally burned coal and then switched to natural gas. In 2009, it changed to burning waste wood.
But burning wood is "dirtier" than burning coal in three key pollutants: deadly particulate matter (PM); nitrogen oxides (a factor in asthma in children); and carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas that causes climate change. Data accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency shows wood combustion produces more PM than coal combustion per unit of energy produced. The same is true for nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide.
The incinerator near Pike Place Market currently threatens clients and staff at the Downtown Food Bank, the Pike Place Market Senior Center, the Pike Place Market Child Care Center, and the Pike Place Market Medical Clinic.
South of Pike Place Market, another neighborhood is at risk. The huge, 50-megawatt, $80 million incinerator planned near Pioneer Square would emit tons of killer particle pollution each year and more than 200,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide. It would threaten clients and staff at the Bread of Life Mission, Harborview Hospital's Pioneer Square Clinic, Seattle's Union Gospel Mission, the Downtown Emergency Services Center, and Real Change offices.
The list of victims from this severe public health threat would include kids, the elderly, diabetics, those with lung disease, those with heart disease, and healthy adults who work or exercise outdoors.
The massive Pioneer Square incinerator planned at 633 Post Ave. would emit 166 tons of particulate matter each year.
Particulate matter is so toxic it can kill a person on the "very day of exposure," according to the American Lung Association. Studies show a "causal relationship" between high particulate matter counts and post-neonatal deaths in infants ages 28 to 365 days.
Particulate matter is associated with a truly scary list of illnesses and conditions: premature death, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, chronic lung disease, heart arrhythmias, lung function changes and increased emergency room admissions.
The hard truth is the permit process will not save us from particulate matter. The American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, more than 70,000 physicians and the Washington State Department of Health agree the current permit process gives inadequate protection from particulate matter.
Another hard truth is the smallest and most lethal particulate matter -- nano-PM -- is completely unregulated by government, cannot be stopped by air pollution control devices, and is absorbed directly from our lungs into our bloodstreams, where it attacks our bodies systemically. Seattle Steam is not even required to list nano-PM on its air pollution applications.
The EPA, the American Heart Association and the Washington Department of Ecology document that there is no safe level of particulate matter. None.
Seattle Steam plans to vastly increase capacity at 633 Post Ave. by burning enough natural gas to generate 50 megawatts of electricity for sale to the grid. This plant would then also generate hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for Seattle Steam from the sale of this electricity. But that electricity would not go to Seattle. It would go to some unidentified distant users. Publicly owned Seattle City Light provides all electricity in the city of Seattle.
Seattle Steam gets the money. We get the lethal pollution.
Seattle Steam would receive an $18.75 million grant from the federal Department of Energy for building the Post Ave. burner. Let's divert the subsidy to convert Seattle Steam's 200 client buildings to electric heat from Seattle City Light. Low-emission hydropower comprises 91 percent of Seattle City Light power.
Seattle Steam is a combustion dinosaur with no place in the 21st century. Join us now to fight renewal of the air pollution permit for the Pike Place Market incinerator and stop the incinerator planned near Pioneer Square. Join our public protest and rally at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, starting at Victor Steinbrueck Park at the north end of Pike Place Market.