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'Eco-Friendly' Development Draws Ire from Enviro Groups

An industrial park that developers have touted as "environmentally friendly" has drawn the ire of environmental groups. They're upset over plans to burn garbage to produce energy. Developers want to build ReVenture Park near the Charlotte Airport. It will have miles of trails, a solar farm and environmentally-friendly office space. Local and state elected officials are enthusiastic about the promise of green jobs. But a major component of the development has become the focus of incendiary debate. "We don't believe that an incinerator is the right solution," says Bill Gupton of the Central Piedmont Sierra Club. He and numerous other environmental groups are in the ironic position of opposing a development built on eco-friendly principles. They support the solar farm, trails and wastewater treatment plant that are part of ReVenture Park. But they say plans to burn trash for energy will only add more pollutants to the air. Developer Tom McKittrick insists the facility is not a traditional incinerator. "We're not burning raw garbage," says McKittrick. "And we're not going to spew a lot of emissions and contribute to air pollution in Mecklenburg County." Exactly how much air pollution is unknown because the ReVenture team has yet to say what technology it will use for turning trash into electricity. McKittrick says it will be some version of "gasification" - which is basically melting the trash to create a gas that can be burned for power. Mecklenburg County has already entered a preliminary agreement to send yard clippings and solid waste to the ReVenture incinerator, so solid waste director Bruce Gledhill says the need for more details about the process is "urgent." "At this point we're interested in having more than academic discussions on what various technologies can yield," says Gledhill. McKittrick says the ReVenture team will be ready to talk specifics in the next several weeks. Meanwhile, Mecklenburg County is recruiting volunteers for a citizens' advisory council to evaluate the safety, health and environmental affects of ReVenture's incinerator proposal. Applications will soon be available on the county's solid waste management website.