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Green is not the color most people would associate with burning tires.
But that's how developers of a proposed tire-fueled power plant in hardscrabble Erie, Pa., describe their project. They say the plant, which would turn 900 tons of tires each day into a 90-megawatt power supply, would be an ecologically beneficial investment since it would keep tires out of landfills or illegal dumps and generate electricity with one-tenth the emissions of traditional coal-fired power plants.
ERE's Web site says its emissions would be well within all legal standards and up to 10 times lower than those of coal-burning plants. But environmentalists and some residents argue that federal clean air standards are too lenient and don't regulate many dangerous metals, organic compounds and tiny particles. When synthetic rubber tires are burned, the byproducts would include highly toxic beryllium, lead, cadmium, selenium, silver, manganese and chromium 6 (of Erin Brockovich fame), according to Carman.
He said the waste gases of sulfur dioxide and other compounds in the emissions would also stick together in the air to form tiny toxic particles. Separately, unburned carbon would bond together to form highly carcinogenic benzene rings, or PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), which form as gases cool.