PO Box 88 ~ Glendale Springs, North Carolina 28629 ~ Phone (336) 982-2691 ~ Fax (336) 982-2954 ~ Email:


November 9, 2010

Louis Zeller (336) 977-0852
Catherine Mitchell (704) 545-4817
Carrie Gerspach (704) 844-8559

New Pollution Study Identifies Harm

Today at a press conference in Matthews, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Citizens for a Healthy Environment released an air pollution study which concludes that the BMWNC medical waste incinerator is too dangerous to operate. The groups called for a shut-down of the incinerator.

The new report, authored by the League’s Science Director, Lou Zeller, demonstrates dangerous levels of air toxins well beyond the property boundary. Specifically, the report shows that hydrogen chloride, cadmium, and mercury all exceed NC health-based standards 328 feet from the plant. Dioxin exceeds NC standards 656 feet from the plant. Arsenic emissions exceed standards a half-mile from the plant. And chromium exceeds NC standards over six miles from the plant.

Zeller used a US Environmental Protection Agency computer program, the worst-case scenario air pollution model. Zeller said, “The fact is that dioxin emissions really call for a worst-case assessment.” He added, “The EPA and the Harvard School of Public Health identified dioxin levels near a waste incinerator as much as ten times greater than predicted by standard modeling.” Dioxin is a known human carcinogen; it threatens human health even at extremely low levels.

Catherine Mitchell, a Matthews resident who heads CHE, said, “Partial solutions won’t work. This incinerator needs to be shut down immediately to prevent further, dangerous exposure risks to our neighborhoods.”

Carrie Gerspach, co-chair of CHE, outlined the group’s next steps. She said, “Citizens for a Healthy Environment is anxious to begin our door-to-door cancer count starting with the three neighborhoods surrounding BMWNC in which residents have complained of high levels of cancer.” She added, “We will also be conducting our own air and soil testing using EPA-approved labs and methods. We believe that these tests will allow us to accurately document what is truly being released from the medical waste incinerator.”

Zeller summed up the League’s position on medical waste incineration. He said, “First, do no harm is the central law of medical ethics. Since the days of Hippocrates, this has been the foundation of medical treatment and diagnosis. Nothing in the realm of law, politics or commerce can or should have greater importance.”

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules for medical waste incinerators, including new requirements for lower emissions, better waste management, and the removal of exemptions for emissions during startup, shutdown and malfunctions. In April 2010, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners adopted a pair of resolutions which directed the county to move forward with implementation of the EPA’s rule no later than October 2012, and requested that the state’s Environmental Management Commission follow suit.


More info: BREDL BMWNC Air Modeling Report