In adopting its budget for next year, the Onondaga County Legislature ensured that $30,000 would be set aside for the county's incinerator monitoring program.
The provision came late in the process when the commissioner of the Health Department, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, initially presented her proposed budget without funding for the monitoring, said county Legislator Linda Ervin. But Morrow was eventually persuaded to include money for the program when the budget was passed Oct. 21.
Getting funding has taken the form of an annual battle, Ervin said, and this year's amount is the bare minimum needed to keep the initiative financially afloat.
"It's a yearly kind of thing," Ervin said. "It's a small amount of money, it's not like it's a lot of money. This year we were only asking for $30,000 for the monitoring, and yet still they were cutting it. It took a lot of maneuvering to get it back in."
The health department initially started the incinerator monitoring program in 1993. The initiative was in response to the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency, in contract with Covanta Energy, opening a facility that housed a municipal solid waste incinerator. The incinerator began operation in 1994 and is located at 5808 Rock Cut Road in Jamesville.
Vicki Baker, a DeWitt town councilor and former county legislator, said the Legislature promised to always monitor the environment to make sure that the incinerator wasn't polluting the surrounding area. Baker said the county used to assign $150,000 to incinerator monitoring, but now the number has been lowered to its lowest point ever and Baker said it's her goal to make sure that the incinerator remains under a high level of inspection.
"Dioxin is supposed to be once of the most potent and deadly toxins in the world," Baker said. "Well, incinerators make dioxin by burning plastics and other things."