Bristol incinerator plan moves to back burner

    Plans to build a controversial incinerator in suburban Philadelphia are on the back burner.

    Route 13 Bristol Partners of King of Prussia submitted a plan late last year to build a 50,000-square-foot industrial burner in Bristol Township. The application came before Chuck Clayton, chair of the township’s zoning board, and he was skeptical.

    “I really can’t get any straight answers about what’s really going to be there, who’s building it, what they’re doing and I have a problem with that,” said Clayton.

    The plan didn’t specify what type of materials would be burned or for how long. Resistance mounted from area residents, neighboring towns and environmental groups, who crowded public meeting to show their opposition and worry about potential pollution and the overall impact on health.

    “The main concern is that the Bucks County area is already in non-attainment for ozone pollution and particulate pollution,” says Russell Zerbo, an advocate with the Clean Air Council who’s been plastering the region with fliers about a hearing that had been slated for Monday. “There’s already a lot of industrial facilities around there, it really just did not need another one.”

    That hearing, however, has been called off. The company withdrew its application Tuesday. A letter from its attorney, Allen Toadvine, said the company needed “to obtain necessary information” and additional testimony specific to answer the zoning board’s concerns.

    While the impact of a new incinerator “could be impressive,” it’s hard to know without more details, said Dr. Reynold Panettieri, deputy director of Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology.

    Panettieri, who wasn’t involved in the debate, said not all incinerators are bad. They’re more closely regulated, thanks to “stringent environmental justice approaches that have markedly improved our air quality,” he said.

    In the absence of incinerators, he said. waste may go to landfills, an option that might not be much better. Regardless, he said the Bristol plan, as previously presented, lacked important details.

    “It was at a point when it was really not vetted completely by the township, the plans really weren’t well described, so there’s very little information that we could use to understand risk,” he said.

    Any plan would have to go through an extensive approval process. It would need an OK from zoning board, to move on to the township council for review. From there, it would need further approval from agencies including the EPA.

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