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Gore To Seek Investigation Of Ohio Hazardous Waste Incinerator

December 7, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration will seek to block final-stage testing at a new hazardous waste incinerator in Ohio until Congress investigates potential threats to the environment, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

Vice President-elect Al Gore is likely to make the announcement Monday on stopping operations at the $140 million incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, said Marla Romash, spokeswoman for the Clinton-Gore transition team in Washington.

She said Gore, joined by congressional colleagues from Ohio and West Virginia and Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., will ask for a General Accounting Office investigation into the plant’s licensing.

Until that investigation is completed, the new administration will hold off issuing a permit for a final test burn. The plant already has a temporary test burn permit.

Gore, expected to be the Clinton administration’s point man on environmental issues, visited the Ohio River Valley area during the campaign and promised the people there he would look into their concerns about the plant.

Gore’s staff ″spent the last several months taking a very serious look″ at the issue, and decided an investigation by GAO, an arm of Congress, was warranted, Romash said.

She said that in a larger sense, the move to curtail operations at the incinerator shows that the Clinton administration, to take office on Jan. 20, will bring ″a real commitment to protecting the environment and environmental laws.″

Terry Swearingen, a spokeswoman for Tri-State Environmental Council, which opposes the incinerator, said the expected announcement fulfils a campaign promise by Clinton and Gore.

″I think this is a clear indication the new administration will be on the side of the people, as promised during the campaign,″ Swearingen said by telephone from Chester, W.Va., across the Ohio River from the incinerator.

″When I heard about this, I was jumping up and down,″ she said.

The New York Times said in Monday’s edition that Gore’s announcement will set up a confrontation between the new administration and the Swiss-owned company, Von Roll Inc., that operates the plant.

Plant spokeswoman Julia Bircher said early Monday that plans for an initial test burn next week would proceed.

″It seems totally contradictory to Gore’s own thesis, that science and advanced technology should be used to solve critical environmental situations,″ Ms. Bircher told The Associated Press. ″It also seems contradictory to the backbone of the Clinton-Gore campaign regarding jobs, cleaning up the environment and revitalizing our economy.″

The Environmental Protection Agency in 1983 issued a permit to Waste Technologies Industries to build the commercial hazardous waste incinerator capable of burning 60,000 tons of toxic waste a year.

Construction began in 1990 but the project has been plagued with protests from local residents joined by environmental groups such as Greenpeace.

Opponents say the incinerator is located just 300 feet from the nearest neighborhood and 1,100 feet from an elementary school on the bank of the Ohio River.

They say the level of toxic emissions has been understated and the state and federal EPAs never accounted for the Ohio River Valley’s typical air inversions, which would let toxic emissions accumulate in the atmosphere.

Supporters argue that emissions into the air will pose no threat to the environment, while generating an estimated $4 million in state and local taxes and 100 permanent jobs.

They add that Von Roll has updated incineration technology extensively, and that the plant will typically accept byproducts from chemical, rubber, paint and manufacturing plants, but not PCBs, asbestos, chemical warfare gas, radioactive waste or waste from overseas.

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