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State Sets Deadline For Matthews Incinerator, County To Push For Earlier Date

State regulators have set a date of July 2013 for medical waste incinerators like the one in Matthews to comply with new federal air quality standards. That's a year earlier than the national deadline, but not early enough for Mecklenburg County officials who plan to challenge the decision. October of 2012 is when Mecklenburg County officials want the Matthews incinerator to clean up its emissions. "It's the will of local community and the local politicians, so we're going to ask the state to approve that," says Mecklenburg County director of air quality Don Willard. Mecklenburg County commissioners voted unanimously to impose the 2012 deadline on BMWNC, which incinerated more than 4,000 tons of medical waste last year in Matthews. But the state Environmental Management Commission yesterday decided that it will take until at least the middle of 2013 for incinerator operators like BMWNC to comply with new, more strict, EPA rules. If Mecklenburg County wants an earlier deadline, it will have to convince state regulators to change their minds. Willard says he'll make that request in January. The new EPA air quality standards require significant reductions in sulfur dioxide, mercury and other toxins that escape medical waste incinerator smokestacks. There will "definitely be less pollution going into the air," says Willard. BMWNC officials declined to comment, but have said it will cost millions of dollars to meet the new standards. Residents near the Matthews incinerator have long complained of smoke and foul odors. In April, BMWNC was cited for violating air quality standards. That put a halt to the company's efforts to renew its operating permit with federal regulators. Willard says the county allowed BMWNC to resume that process this week, after several unannounced inspections found the incinerator operating in compliance.