Letters to the Editor: Regarding ADAGE biomass plant proposal

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By The Staff

Have you heard of biomass incineration as a significant source of air pollution?  Burning large quantities of wood (much more than in your fireplace), like burning many other substances, releases numerous toxic chemicals and deadly particles, which can negatively affect both the environment and respiratory health.

In particular, emissions for biomass incinerators like the one proposed for Gretna release fine particulate matter (soot), sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can inflame the lungs and are a threat to everyone.  Like cigarettes, biomass plant emissions also contain chemicals that are known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. 

When trees contaminated with pesticides are burned, that other old nemesis from the Vietnam War, dioxin, the chief component of Agent Orange is released.  Dioxin is such a potent carcinogen that ingestion of just one fish that is contaminated with large amounts of dioxin is enough to raise one's cancer risk.

For vulnerable populations, such as people with asthma, infants, those with chronic respiratory diseases, the elderly and infirm and those with cardiovascular disease, biomass incineration is particularly harmful.  Even short exposures can prove deadly.

The upstart biomass industries, including the proposed ADAGE incinerator in Gadsden County, are the new “tobacco industry” complete with marketing ploys, misleading if not out-right false information and greedy profit motives.  The Florida Medical Association, deeply concerned about the deadly emissions from these plants, urges state government to minimize the approval and construction of biomass incinerators.  

Just like there is no such thing as a safe cigarette, there is no such thing as a safe biomass plant. 


Bob Fulford


Not only is it well documented that biomass incinerators pollute our air but the huge consumptive use and abuse of our waters is promised by the ADAGE LLC assault on our community.  Yet neither this company nor its local proponents have convened any open public forum to pose or answer these and so many other questions. 

A huge amount of untreated water will be needed for cooling and fluid bed processing.  How much untreated clean or waste water does the city of Gretna currently produce each day and how much more will it require from the Floridan aquifer to service this incinerator? 

What will be the effect on rural area wells, volume water users and farming operations? How does ADAGE plan to clean it before discharging it? What toxic gray water will be reintroduced into our community? Where will this discharge or reuse be directed? What effect on local schools and residences will be expected from heavy industrial storm water runoff?

All the waters are one but of course, the huge water usage issue won't be addressed in the current air or construction permit application. Citizens, families and businesses need firm answers to these and other water questions before allowing this dirty technology to become rooted near our homes, schools and sacred places.

D. W. Borland


More than 730 tons. 731 TONS!

This is the estimated number of pollutants to come out of the giant biomass plant smokestack every year in Gretna – 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day equals 731 tons. This number comes directly from the ADAGE company’s Air Permit Application to the DEP. Who wants 731 MORE TONS of air pollution in our county each year?

These pollutants don’t simply disappear into the atmosphere. They land on and are absorbed into everything within 50 miles, depending upon how the wind is blowing. And the worst particles, the smallest ones, go into our lungs, our blood, our hearts, our brains and into our children and grandchildren even before they are born.

There are no known safe levels of many of these airborne chemicals. Let me say that again:  NO SAFE LEVELS. 731 tons. No safe levels.

The list of potential serious illnesses these chemicals can cause is staggering. Pneumonia, emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease and more.  At least 75,000 U.S. doctors oppose biomass. The Florida Medical Association, Physicians for Social Responsibility, American Lung Association (MA), Massachusetts Medical Society and many other physicians have taken a stand to oppose biomass technology. Let me say that again:  At least 75,000 U.S. doctors oppose biomass.

And to those who say the Flying J brings more trucks than this plant would bring, let me say this:  the Flying J doesn’t create truck traffic; these trucks are already driving through Gadsden County. The only thing the Flying J does is get money from them on their way through. And anyway, would you want to live by the Flying J?

We all deserve better than this, and we can do better than this. Let me say it again:  We ALL deserve better than this!


Judye McCalman


I have been heavily involved with land conservation in Indian River County for 20 years. My grandson in Gadsden County has asthma. If the biomass plant is built there, he and his family will have to leave the county.

Other county residents would also have to leave due to pollution from biomass plant incineration, which harms lungs, causes asthma, emphysema, heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Trees in Gadsden County beautify landscapes, provide homes for birds, clean the air, stabilize the soil and provide shade. A biomass plant would burn great quantities of wood, encouraging landowners to sell their trees to the plant, causing further air pollution rather than cleaning the air, ruining the natural appeal of Gadsden County, and causing soil erosion.

If the plant is built, many citizens would leave and many homes and farms would be sold or abandoned, adversely affecting the county's tax base. Scenic beauty would be lost, and tourism would decline, resulting in great financial loss for the county.

Other states have acted to keep biomass out. I hope the citizens of Gadsden County will unite in opposition to this terribly destructive action.

Lee D. Robinson

Vero Beach

There is no doubt high utility costs and unemployment rates are of great concern to the county commissioners, and the residents and business owners in the community. It is also obvious that the county is growing, with the need for additional electricity.

However, as a resident of the county who relies heavily on electricity, I believe that locating a biomass plant in Gretna is wrong and a bad idea for the people in this community.

The unfortunate truth is that there is no such thing as a "safe" biomass plant. Emissions are similar to coal-fired power plants. Biomass power, derived from the burning of plant matter, raises more serious health and environmental issues than any other renewable resource.

Facilities that burn raw municipal waste also present a unique pollution control problem. This waste often contains toxic metals, chlorinated compounds and plastics, which generate harmful emissions.

I strongly doubt that there is anyone in Gadsden County that would want a job that would require them to kill their children or grandchildren in the future.

I urge commissioners, individually and collectively, to vote in opposition to locating this biomass plant in this community. Do not allow greed and self-enrichment to cloud your judgement. Consider the safety and well-being of the citizens of Gadsden County and do what is right.

Anthony Viegbesie


Gadsden County is on the verge of doing something that will put it and the city of Gretna on the forefront of our nation’s clean energy economy.

If the people of Gretna and Gadsden County accept a proposal from ADAGE  to build a clean, renewable biopower facility, they will be raising the environmental, technological and health safety bar for biopower in Florida.

I am sure the citizens of Gadsden County will have questions and they should be given an opportunity to ask and receive answers. The bioenergy facility they have planned for Gadsden County is neither a gasifier nor a waste incinerator and is proposed to be built on an existing industrial site area.

It would use identical technology as the plant in Hamilton County recently approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection which concluded, “ … the air pollution controls required for this facility are very modern and sophisticated for a project of any size and any fuel …”

This biopower plant would use only clean wood – not coal or garbage as some have falsely claimed.  This project presents and opportunity for rural communities to create energy from clean wood that would otherwise go into landfills or be burned openly without emission controls.

From an economic development standpoint, ADAGE’s project would inject millions of dollars across the Gadsden County economy, providing much-needed revenue, salaries and worker benefits. This project is expected to pay over 12 million in taxes to the Gadsden County School District.

Of course, the proposal will be a community decision. Citizens should consider all aspects of the project. They should, however, be cautious about wild claims and misstatements by some who attempt to identify this project with the recently debated BG&E project.  

In these tough economic times, Florida faces a challenge unlike any other state: our massive tourism and service-based economy has had little cushion from the downturn. While nothing can or should replace our one-of-a-kind tourist industry, the state is perfectly positioned to embrace new, sustainable industries that will reduce our need for imported fossil fuels and become just one more facet driving the Florida economic engine.

Al Pasini

Executive Director, Tallahassee Downtown Improvement Authority

We spoke with Robin Cammish of the Coedbach Action Team.  He described his team’s visit to Steven’s Croft Power Station near Lockerbie, Scotland in November 2008.  This plant is a 44 megawatt biomass incineration plant that ADAGE says is the same design as the one that they intend to build in Gretna. 

The plant is located in open countryside near Lockerbie, population 4,000.  There are only six people, living on farms within a 1-mile circle of the plant.  No one lives within 2/3 of a mile of the site.  This biomass plant is in an extremely rural location in one of the least populated parts of the UK. 

Lockerbie is farther away from their biomass plant than either Gretna or most of Quincy will be from our proposed plant at the junction of Highway 90 and 12.

Members of the Coedbach team reported that on a clear day, they were able to see an exhaust plume coming from the smoke stack of the plant from “as far as 20 miles away.” The large exhaust plume consists of the same type of steam and toxic chemical gases (carbon monoxide, etc.) that issue in much smaller amounts from the tailpipe of a car.

Robin talked with the local farmers and the residents of Lockerbie.  The locals complained of an "acrid" smell on the quiet days, without wind.  They told him that the incinerator smoke leaves an oily film of soot that soils windows and sticks on everything in the town – like clothes, houses and cars.  The semi trucks also make more than 1,000 trips per week to and from the plant.

The local residents were upset that the biomass plant ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that there was lots and lots of noise.  The plant has large wood processing and chipping area.  When the wood is being chipped it is very noisy.  The cooling fan noise went on all the time and was really loud, this was the helicopter noise they were complaining about.  Also the people complained of seeing “lights from the site – all the time” that make night seem bright as day.   Robin stated that the chimneystack is also lit up “like a Christmas tree” with airplane warning lights.

 The Steven’s Croft Power Station is very flexible in what it can burn.  The engineer told them that the plant could “burn garbage at the flick of a switch."  He would just need to get an air permit to do it. 

According to Robin, the “only difference between a biomass plant and a coal plant is that it says 'biomass' on the smokestack.”


Laura Robbins Schell