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Zero Waste Coalition Update

Ann Gadwah


The CT Zero Waste Coalition supports waste reduction methods that seek to eliminate negative environmental impacts and disproportionate burdens on Connecticut's low-income and communities of color, and advancing innovative and sustainable waste solutions by diverting Connecticut’s waste from landfills and incinerators to significantly improve the environment, health, and well-being of Connecticut residents who currently suffer pollution from trash burning. Sierra Club worked with the coalition throughout the legislative session on important waste reduction and environmental justice bills. This summer, the coalition is supporting groups in two Connecticut municipalities that are fighting against waste expansion projects that have the potential to add pollution to their communities. 


In Bristol, the coalition is helping to support Bristol Residents for Clean Air in their fight against Covanta Bristol’s proposed plan to burn medical waste at their incinerator located in the city. Covanta seeks to burn over 20,000 tons a year in medical waste, trucked in from throughout the Northeast. This number would make the facility one of the largest medical waste incinerators in the country. Some examples of the medical waste they would be incinerating in Bristol is used and unused sharps, blood and bodily fluids, microbiological waste, renal dialysis waste, surgical waste, pathological material, non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste commingled with sharps, and trace chemotherapy waste. 


Burning medical waste releases toxic pollutants like dioxins and furans, which can cause cancer, reproductive problems, birth defects, immune system suppression, and lung problems. Under the proposal, Covanta will not need to comply with the stricter air pollution standards that apply to official medical waste incinerators. They will only be required to meet the less protective standards that apply to trash incinerators. This less protective standard is particularly concerning because there are plenty of non-burn alternatives for all types of medical waste. Burning it in Bristol and potentially polluting the city’s air is completely unnecessary. 


For more information on how to get involved and prevent this possible environmental injustice, please visit Bristol Residents for Clean Air on Facebook


The Coalition is also working to oppose a proposed expansion to the ash landfill located in Putnam. This landfill takes in ash from trash incinerators within the state borders and from one located in New York State. The proposal is to expand the existing facility by 68 acres into the woodlands and open space that abuts the Quinebaug River. The permit application asks for a downgrade in the classification of the groundwater underneath the landfill, which discharges into the river. 


The coalition is concerned about this expansion for a variety of reasons, and wonders how the public’s health will be impacted by the ash landfill for another 25 years. Incinerator ash is highly toxic. There is concern about water quality of the Quinebaug River, part of a designated National Recreation Trail, used for boating, fishing, and other recreation. The people of Putnam deserve healthy air, a healthy river, and healthy groundwater. The landfill expansion is counterproductive to the Governor and DEEP’s goal of providing healthier drinking water and protecting the health of its citizens. 


There is no need for this expansion, because the MIRA incinerator in Hartford is due to close in 2022. The expansion also goes against the recommendations of the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management, which, if implemented, should negate the need for more trash incineration. 


Finally, the impacts of waste management and trash incineration have historically been borne by environmental justice communities in our state, Putnam being one of those. It is unfair and unjust to ask the residents of Putnam to continue to bear this burden. 


If interested in supporting these campaigns or joining the CT Zero Waste Coalition, please reach out to Susan Eastwood or me, Ann Gadwah, and we can put you in touch with Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ) director Sharon Lewis. 

Ann Gadwah is the Sierra Club Connecticut Outreach Coordinator. 

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