GRU/GREC Biomass Fugitive Dust Health Issues Continue Reply

Public Works employees every day wear protective masks to shield themselves from particulate pollution and odors.” – Letter to the Gainesville Sun

Harold SaiveOn June 2, 2014 talked with a County employee listed as a complainant on the County’s notarized “Fugitive Dust Affidavit” who confirmed wearing a filter mask was necessary to provide personal protection against fugitive dust from the GRU/GREC biomass facility emissions.


GREC Biomass Plant Fugitive Dust Health Threat to Alachua County Employees

The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) is a 100-MW biomass power facility located in Gainesville, Florida.

GREC is owned by Energy Management, Inc., BayCorp Holdings Ltd., and Starwood Energy Inc., as well as by certain principals of Fagen, Inc., the contractor that built the facility.

With a grandiose vision to be seen as a leader in solving man-made global warming , the Gainesville City commission decided to enter into a $3 Billion power purchase agreement (PPA) at a time when Gainesville Regional Utilities had no need for additional base power generation.

Fugitive Dust-MaskIn addition to questions about the ethics of a financially irresponsible PPA contract that has raised electric rates to the highest in the State of Florida, the emissions from the incinerator now present a realistic public health hazard.

On May 20th the Alachua County Commission entered into a questionable agreement with GREC (Gainesville Renewable Energy Center) that prevents the County from challenging GREC’s requested permits in exchange for providing $96,000  to perform additional 9 months of ambient air monitoring through October, 2014.

Of major public health concern is the ongoing risks to Alachua County employees and nearby residents of Hague, Turkey Creek and other communities  exposed to particulates of fugitive dust and foul odor associated with the biomass chips.

Although initial noise complaints from 2013 appear to have diminished with the installation of a baffle in the generator stack, the noise remedy has nothing to do with hazardous emissions of particulates that are inhaled by County employees and anyone else within several mile radius of the incinerator.

The monitoring of fugitive dust began at the end of January, but County workers and homeowners of the Turkey Creek and nearby communites are breathing a yet-unreported amount of toxic emissions.

Gainesville Sun Letter to the editor , 5/25/2014

“The Sun reported that the Alachua County Commission majority approved a deal under which the county will give up its rights to challenge or comment on air pollution permits being sought by the limited liability wood-burning electricity-generation entity known as the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center. GREC’s energy speculators will relieve the county of a $96,000 bill for particulate monitoring.

The Sun did not report that county Public Works employees every day wear protective masks to shield themselves from particulate pollution and odors. Why should The Sun?

The commission majority has concluded that GREC’s energy speculators have taken “reasonable precautions to prevent such emissions” — the standard required by law.

The commission majority also has concluded that even if plant odor “interferes with the comfortable use and enjoyment of life,” it does not “unreasonably” do so — the standard required by law.

Nothing to see here. Time to move along.”

 In 2013, County Employees were allowed to submit a notarized “Affidavit For Fugitive Dust” complaint form.  This process logged about 20 County employee complaints at the maintenance facility located next to the GREC generator. Even as the complaints listed moderate to severe health issues, the opportunity for employees to continue filing complaints came to an unexplained end on 11/21/2013.

But the the biomass hotline, which continued through 2/7/2014 included more complaints from County employees suggesting the opportunity for county employees to file an “affidavit”was arbitrarily ended on 11/21/2013 for reasons that remain unclear.
Furthermore, no records are available from either the County and/or GRU/GREC as to how the complaints in the affidavits were resolved to the satisfaction of the employee. (WUFT report on 2/7/2014 closure)

Irregularities in timing of Call Center Closing vs. Media Coverage

On 2/5/2014, WUFT  most correctly reported the GREC Call Center would close on 2/7/2014

On 2/14/2014 – a week following closing – GRU reported the GREC call Center complaint line was being considered for closure due to slow response.

A public records request confirmed the final complaint to the call center was logged on 2/10/2014.

The problem with each reporting system is the failure of the responding agency (GRU/GREC) to file a public report confirming the complaints in the Fugitive Dust affidavit and Biomass Hot line had been solved to the satisfaction of the complainant.  Without documentation of resolution, the employee and citizen complaints remain open and awaiting resolution.

Once a citizen files a complaint it’s presumed that it’s not necessary to re-file a complaint with each and every instance. nInstead, it’s incumbent on GREC to resolve the complaint to the written satisfaction of each complainant.

The GRU/GREC’tactic of wearing out the complainants with non-responses does does nothing to solve the fundamental health risk to employees and citizens.

GRU Pushes for Closing of Call Center Established for Receiving GREC Complaints
February 24, 2014

By Calvin Azuri, TMCnet Contributor

The Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) released a press statement recommending the closure of the call center established for receiving complaints regarding Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) from the local residents. Gainesville Regional Utilities, which pays for the call center, issued a press release requesting local government officials to close the call center and recommended that all concerns should be directly routed to GREC. (Source)

GREC could cut line for call center

Published on Thursday, 20 February 2014 00:27

ALACHUA – Only 14 complaints came into the call center for the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) biomass plant in the last month, causing local officials to suggest shutting it down.

Since the biomass plant went online last August, residents of the Turkey Creek neighborhood in Alachua have been vocal about issues with noise from the plant. A high volume of calls were coming in to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, the Alachua Police Department and the Gainesville Police Department, prompting a panel of local leaders to establish the call center, paid for by Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU).  (Source)

Agencies Halt Special Biomass Complaint Line on Feb 7th, 2014

Due to the low call volume and the responsiveness of GREC in addressing citizen complaints, the call center will no longer process calls, effective Friday, February 7. Instead, concerns related to the biomass facility should be reported directly to GREC at 386-315-8028. In the event of an emergency, citizens should continue to dial 911. (Source)

NSR/PSD Construction Permits  Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, Gainesville, Florida

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