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Matthews Incinerator Gets 2012 Deadline To Reduce Emissions

A controversial medical waste incinerator in Matthews will have to meet an accelerated deadline for reducing its toxic air emissions. North Carolina regulators yesterday granted Mecklenburg County the authority to make the incinerator comply with the rules two years earlier than the federal deadline. Mecklenburg County officials pushed for the earlier deadline largely because Matthews residents like Catherine Mitchell insisted on it. "To us it's a very, very big deal," says Mitchell. "The emissions around that plant have been an issue for decades and residents have been complaining for a very long time about the problems associated with that facility, and also the health issues generated by those emissions." As of October 2012, the Matthews incinerator will have to significantly reduce some of the most toxic of its emissions, such as dioxin, hydrochloric acid emissions and mercury. "These are the types of emissions that do come out of the stack that you really can't see or smell most of the time," says Mecklenburg County Air Quality Director Don Willard. The federal Environmental Protection Agency established the new rules in 2009 with a deadline for all medical waste incinerators to comply by 2014. States and counties can set an earlier date. The Matthews facility is one of only about 50 such medical waste incinerators left in the country. Officials with BWMNC - which owns the incinerator - have said the new rules will require millions of dollars in upgrades that would be difficult to finish by October 2012. The company has not decided if it will appeal the deadline.