Price we pay in health for biomass is steep

To the editor:

Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette’s second article predicts conservatively 40 deaths (compared to two from coal), 75 heart attacks, 730 asthma attacks and more than 4,000 lost workdays annually from the Jasper Clean Energy Center. Her first article revealed ultrafine particulates are 65 times more toxic than the equivalent mass of coal particulates. Multiple independent university scientists reviewed both articles prior to publication, which suggests how the public health world would judge Jasper’s biomass incinerator. Both the city’s response and The Herald newspaper coverage failed to mention the multiplier from the first article and the second article’s projected tragic human toll.

Last week, southern Indiana’s ozone unhealthy zone was three times larger than the unhealthy area for the other 49 states combined (EPA website, June 20). IDEM deserves another F because Indiana boasts more counties with particulate nonattainment levels than California (eight versus seven, from the website of Bingham Greenebaum Doll,; Dubois County ranks among the nation’s worst 2 percent, one of only 66 failing of 3,142 counties. Yet our city officials are not only paying lawyers to find any way to retaliate against Healthy Dubois County members (December 2012 Jasper Utility Service Board meeting) but stated publicly they will consult lawyers first regarding “their best interest” before responding to articles from Dr. Shrader-Frechette, a Catholic Digest “Hero” and 2004 World Technology Award in Ethics winner.

The recent Beaver Lake issue has been interesting to witness given the past two to- three years of biomass controversy. Beaver Lake is ironically just downwind of the power plant when the pollution blows east. The reality of the current water level appears to differ from city calculations and measurements, yet property owners’ reports that the math doesn’t match haven’t been met with cries of “misinformation”; pictures are worth a thousand words. An apparently unaccounted-for factor has affected the final water level from the new spillway, costing property owners who deserve to be heard.

Whatever affected the water levels appears unintentional but should be a wake-up call for Jasper officials to account for ultrafine toxicity and respect — rather than retaliate against — concerned citizens. The intentional and inevitable future “fallout” from their biomass incinerator will be far more deadly than Beaver Lake’s exposed docks.

—Norma Kreilein M.D., FAAP

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