Transfer station smokecauses concerns for neighborhoods 18 December 2004
by Cindy Barks, The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT – For years, the Sundog Ranch Road area has been home to a curiousmixture of residential, industrial and recreational uses.
And about a year ago, a new use joined the mix: the City of Prescott’sincinerator at the Sundog Ranch Road transfer station, which burns hundreds oftons of brush every month.
On most weekdays, the city fires up the incinerator to burn the mounds oftree branches, pine needles and weeds that home owners and landscapers disposeof at the transfer station.
City officials say that in the wake of the 2002 Indian fire and thebark-beetle infestation, ever-increasing amounts of brush have made their way tothe transfer station off Sundog Ranch Road.
But the smoke that comes from the incinerator resulted in a recent spate ofcomplaints from the nearby Cliff Rose and Prescott Lakes neighborhoods.
Chad McDowell, solid waste superintendent for the city, maintains that theburning is necessary to get rid of the nearly 300 tons of brush that go to thetransfer station each month. If the city were not burning the material, McDowellsaid, it would have to go to the landfill near Dewey.
He estimated that one-third of the brush comes from home owners who want tocreate “defensible space” around their homes to protect against thethreat of a forest fire. The remaining two-thirds comes from contractorsclearing lots for new homes and from landscapers.
“Since the Indian fire, it has skyrocketed,” McDowell said of theamount of brush. “We had to come up with a different way of doing it (thedisposal).”
Although the city looked briefly into buying a grinder, it opted instead tobuy the incinerator in the fall of 2003. The cost for the purchase: $86,841.
In order to handle the volume, McDowell said the burner has to operate mostweekdays. In October, when the volume peaked at about 360 tons, the incineratoroperated during the weekends as well.
The expanded hours caused a number of problems, however, for the residentsjust across Highway 89, as well as for the adjacent Peavine Trail, a popularrecreation area. Residents reported that the smoke from the burner kept themfrom comfortably spending time in their yards and from walking on the PeavineTrail.
But more importantly, said Clara Lutz, who lives nearby in Prescott Lakes, isthe effect the smoke is having on the general air quality.
“Here we have the city polluting the air for the entire community,”she said. “It just seems absurd that this is happening.”
McDowell, who said the incinerator emits a minimal amount of smoke most ofthe day, suggested that the other existing industrial uses in the Sundog arealikely compounded the problem.
For a time, McDowell said, Fann Contracting was using its Sundog-area batchplant at the same time that the fire department was conducting its annual drillsat the nearby training center – all while the transfer station was burning atits peak.
In response to the complaints, the city has adjusted its burning schedulesomewhat. For instance, McDowell said it has limited burning to weekdays, from 8a.m. to 4 p.m. That way, he said, the smoke should not affect early-morning orevening hikers on the Peavine Trail.
Lutz pointed out, however, that any daytime burning would severely cut intohiking time on the trail. Rather than looking for ways to adjust the schedule,she suggested that the city should use some of the more than $2 million it plansto spend for a future transfer-station expansion to look for a new location forthe burner.
McDowell said he hopes that the city can eventually switch to a chipping andcomposting system to handle the large amount of brush. But he noted that couldbe “two or three years down the road.”
In the meantime, the city has sent out letters to area residents and has metwith Cliff Rose residents.