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Recovery facility a "benefit to community and environment'

Re: Recent Greenpeace demonstration at the Pinellas County Resource Recovery Facility. The Pinellas County Resource Recovery Facility last week served as a prop for a Greenpeace media and fund-raising event. Well-paid, professional Greenpeace "volunteers" were flown in from as far away as Philadelphia and San Diego to demonstrate their local concerns for the Florida environment. Greenpeace ceremoniously unfurled two banners and staged a rally for 20 or so participants and the media. When the hype faded and the reporters left, Greenpeace also departed. What everyone seems to have left behind are the facts.

Greenpeace wants you to believe that the Pinellas facility air emissions are responsible for the mercury problem in the Everglades. The fact is, most experts believe that the principal cause of increased mercury contamination of fish in Florida is the lowering of water levels in streams and estuaries like the Everglades. When submerged shoreline soils, particularly peat, are exposed to the air, they release large amounts of naturally-occurring mercury into the water supply.

Furthermore, tissue samples taken from fish at a lake on the resource recovery facility site contain significantly less mercury than samples taken from fish in the Everglades. If the Pinellas County Resource Recovery Facility was the cause of the mercury contamination in the Everglades, obviously the tissue samples taken from fish at the facility site would be many times higher than tissue samples taken from the fish at the Everglades. They also exhibit concentrations well below mercury guidelines for human consumption established by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. The overall health effects from stack readings at modern trash-to-energy facilities such as the Pinellas project have been consistently found to be at levels many times lower than those considered safe by EPA standards, as well as other reputable standards throughout the world.

When the Greenpeace event ended, the Pinellas facility continued to operate as one of the safest and most comprehensive waste management systems in the country. The county's and the facility's ongoing contributions should not be overlooked by those truly concerned about our environment and natural resources. These contributions include:

Pinellas County has the most successful recycling program in the state of Florida, and is making significant strides in optimizing these benefits from the waste stream.

The Resource Recovery Facility has produced nearly 3-million megawatt hours of electricity from garbage that has been thrown away by the people of Pinellas County as worthless. This has saved over 250-million gallons of imported oil from being consumed by the local utility to generate this electricity, along with the emissions that would have resulted.

During its seven years of operations, the metals recovery system at the Resource Recovery Facility has recycled enough metal from the garbage stream to build over 100,000 cars.

Analyzing any endeavor of modern society will yield some problems. However, a full and accurate evaluation requires a fair assessment of all sides of the issues. In the case of the Pinellas County Resource Recovery Facility, I believe that society will decide that it is a very positive benefit to the community and the environment. The citizens of Pinellas County and the state of Florida would be better served if Greenpeace would join us in becoming a positive force in attacking the problem of solid waste disposal in the county, and spent less of their publicly-generated contributions hanging banners on the sides of real and positive solutions.

William H. Ferguson, Southern Regional Manager,

Wheelabrator Environmental Systems Inc.,

St. Petersburg

The recent coverage of Greenpeace activists scaling incinerator stacks in Pinellas County should remind the public of this paper's extensive coverage of the hazards of mercury pollution to Florida's sensitive environment. We all are at risk from the invasion of this deadly chemical into our air and water.

Mercury is not an exotic element _ unlike other toxics and combinations which may result from incineration. We have known for centuries the effects of mercury on the born and unborn _ mercury makes people crazy. Remember the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland?

Mercury is not a "criteria," e.g. regulated, pollutant under existing federal air quality standards. That's why incinerator plants can be permitted to operate and emit the stuff without violating these standards; why the new plant in Pasco County, for example, will be in compliance at the same time it dumps 3 tons of mercury each year into Florida skies. Ultimately that mercury winds up in our streams and fish and us. What happens to a "fisherman's paradise" if you can't eat your catch? Is anybody thinking about the consequences of fishing bans on this state's fishing and tourism economies?

The aspect to me most galling is that we know how to remove mercury from the atmosphere. It is tricky for the incinerator builders because it vaporizes at a very low temperature _ 140 degrees. It is up the stack and gone past scrubbers and baghouses which deal with cooled gases at twice the heat. Further cooling to condense mercury, or activated charcoal to filter it out can work, but they are not currently mandated by federal standards for control technology. (Readers might inquire "why not?" from their Senate and House representatives.)

Another way to inhibit mercury emissions is to get it out of the "waste stream" by separating products containing it before incineration. Such separation would be beneficial in removing other highly toxic materials as well as recyclables. All it would take is reasonable trash management policies at the plant or even in the home.

Incineration may be the answer for reducing the volume of solid waste, particularly when coupled with aggressive programs of recycling and separation. But no community, no government, can responsibly afford any longer to sanction emissions of tons of mercury each year into the atmosphere.

Adrien W. Helm, St. Petersburg

On Halloween

Re: Parents disturbed by Halloween images, Oct. 18.

Once again the Halloween season is upon us, and once again I find that as a practicing priest in the religion of Wicca, I must do my part to clear some of the misconceptions. It appears that some parents are concerned that Halloween is discussed in the classroom. I must first stress that the "popular" beliefs of Halloween (or Samhain as it is properly referred to) are incorrect Hollywood stereotypes. Samhain is, in fact, the ancient Celtic new year of change and renewal. According to archetypal folklore, it is the time when the two-faced god, Janus, looked back at the old year and looked forward to the new. The Sabbatt was celebrated (and still is celebrated by modern witches) with great joy and happiness. It is the time when one looks back and remembers those who have parted, and looks forward to the not-yet born souls who will be born in the upcoming year. Ever since the Inquisition, though, the beliefs of Samhain have been twisted and bastardized. Thus, in modern times, the "popular" belief is that Halloween is a time when the dead walk and evil creatures wreak havoc throughout the night. And to add insult to injury, witches are portrayed as evil, wicked women riding broomsticks in the midnight sky.

As a practitioner of Wicca, I have two requests to make of the general public. First of all, mine is simply a nature religion that harms no one; please respect and stop contributing to harmful slander. Second of all, if the school boards decide to remove mention of Halloween in the classroom, that is fine. However, if one religious holiday is to be removed (and Samhain is a religious holiday), then all religious holidays should be removed. Personally, I don't think school is the place to teach religion (if for no other reason than there are too many to teach). However, there is nothing wrong with schools teaching children to respect different religions whether they be Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Wiccan, Judaic .

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Until we as a society can do something to end the stereotypes of Halloween, my religion will always suffer unnecessarily. Wicca is a very old and wise religion. Is it too much to ask for respect?

Rev. Joseph F. Cook, Tampa

Re: Parents disturbed by Halloween images, Oct. 18.

I must inform your readers of the major facts that were left out of the article on the Halloween protest which took place at the Oct. 16 Pasco County School Board Meeting. The constitutional premise of separation of church and state prohibits the public school system from celebrating religious holy days. Satanism is a religion and was recognized as such by the Supreme Court in 1961. Halloween is one of three major holy days of the Satanic religion. This fact is documented in The Satanic Bible by Anton Lavey, A Witches Bible _ Volume 1 by Janet and Stewart Farrar, and A Handbook for Chaplains published by the U.S. Department of Defense. Therefore, the celebration of Halloween by the public schools is in direct violation of the separation of church and state. This is a legal fact which does not depend on my personal view of Halloween or the School Board's personal view of Halloween.

Mary Davis, New Port Richey

Testing a permit

Re: 12 cited in protest against youth deer hunt, Oct. 14.

As one who was present at the youth deer hunt protest, I would like to make one correction to your article.

The 12 persons arrested were not trying to enter Camp Blanding, as was stated. The purpose of their actions was to test a permit, the validity of which was in question.

The aim of our protest was to raise public awareness and promote non-violence, not enter Camp Blanding.

Anita Daniels, Largo

Waste of money, space

Re: And the code word is "Simone," Oct. 20.

Anyone smart enough to spell Simone backwards and phonetically could find out that it is simply "enemies" which one knows pops up in talks about the Middle East. Supernatural? I think not. If this had been a more sarcastic article I would have understood. What a waste of taxpayers' money and newspaper space.

Tom Ierna, St. Petersburg

Where's the logic?

What is the logic behind extending Daylight Saving Time until the end of October? Children and workers must now travel in darkness until 7:30 a.m. Years ago we went back to Standard Time the end of September. This, if we must have Daylight Saving Time, seems to make more sense. Another alternative for the Suncoast would be Central Standard Time.

Rene G. Wetzel, Tarpon Springs

Looking for authenticity

Many a legitimate Democrat has had to hold his nose in many a Florida voting booth for many years.

However, since so many self-serving demographic Democrats have become ersatz Republicans, it is the honorable GOP members who now must go to the polls with their fingers crossed.

One wonders how many, if any, authentic Republicans now hold office in Florida.

John Callahan, Clearwater

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