Two dilemmas, one incinerator: Northwest fights garbage, finds energy

Not too long ago, InvestigateWest reported that woody debris was being paraded as a viable source of renewable fuel for the Northwest. But it seems there’s another alternative energy source gaining popularity in the region and it may be even more abundant: garbage.

The Portland Business Journal writes that a $10 million garbage plant in McMinnville, Ore. may be able to generate enough electricity to power 2,500 homes. While the facility will not be finished until next year, the solidiwaste company that developed the technology to convert waste-to-energy already has plans for a second plant in Arlington, Ore.

Vancouver, B.C. has commissioned for a garbage-to-energy incinerator too, promoting the technique as an ideal way to cope with the overwhelming volume of garbage the city receives each year. City officials have recently displayed fierce efforts to curb the amount of waste hitting landfills, heavily promoting composting and recycling with hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the area has seen public opposition to the garbage-to-energy plan, with 65 percent of polled Vancouver residents fearful that waste incinerators will negatively affect air quality, writes Jeff Nagel of BC Local News. The plants are not pollution-free: One hour of incinerator emissions is equivalent to 20 cars traveling two miles, said Dr.

High levels of zinc found in Fairbanks air

The air in Fairbanks contains an unusually high amount of zinc, comparable to levels in a city next to a smelting plant, reports Christopher Eshleman of the Daily News-Miner. Since Fairbanks does not have any smelting plants and research indicates the microscopic particles of metal are not floating in from other places, officials suggest they may be the result of auto shops and dealerships that burn used engine oil for heat in the winter rather than shipping it out. Researchers plan to conduct studies this winter to try to figure out the causes of the pollution, which aggravates asthma and produces complications for people with other health conditions.

– Emily Linroth

Alaskan wildfire smoke causes unhealthy air quality

Smoke from two wildfires is condensed over the interior of Alaska, resulting in an advisory for unhealthy air quality over Fairbanks, reports the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The dense layer of smoke is from two fires that have burned almost half a million acres so far. The borough canceled many sport practices and games until quality improves, according to a related story in the News-Miner. It recommends everyone limit exposure and that children, the elderly and people with respiratory or heart conditions completely avoid prolonged exposure.

– Emily Linroth