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Proposed medical waste incinerator in Suwannee County stirs controversy

7:59 PM, Oct 14, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It is a small community, population under 7,000, but as Mark Twain said "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

"You don't want women mad," said Patricia Tayman.

In living rooms across Suwannee County, women are gearing up to fight a proposed medical waste incinerator in their community.

"We've cried, we've lost weight and we've lost sleep," she said, "The America I know says we have rights to be heard." 

Tayman, Lori McCraney, Debra Johnson, Linda Ruwe and Eileen Box are some of the women fighting back against the incinerator.

"I think it has been the catalyst for Suwannee County to wake up and to say no," said Box.

The proposed incinerator is planned for a rural area designated for development called the catalyst.

"The 106 jobs are not worth the risk of nano poisons going in the air," said Johnson.

The company behind the incinerator is Integrated Waste Management Systems.

It was introduced to the County Administrator Randy Harris, residents say it was done in a closed meeting and that bothers them.

They're also upset that the Board of County Commissioners voted to change the Land Use rules to remove the requirement for a public hearing.

"We do not want it," said Lori McCraney, "and they would do it without public approval."

The women turned to social media to express their concerns creating a Facebook page 'Suwannee County Says No to Toxic Waste' and had 300 likes and a groundswell.

"We have so much to preserve, our natural beauty, our lakes," said McCraney.

Over the weekend, there was a rally in Live Oak and the size of the crowd and the passion of the residents convinced some county commissioners to vote against the incinerator.

"I don't think it is a proven system," said Commissioner Phil Oxendine, "and the people don't want it."

According to Oxendine, all but one of the five-member commission is now against it.

The women say they know that their fight is not over, but feel a moral victory after convincing their county commissioners a medical waste incinerator is not the best fit for their community.

"I don't want my children and grandchildren to have children with birth defects," said Ruwe.

They have researched similar facilities and said they know they're doing the right thing in trying to stop it.

"We could not find anything positive that would overcome the negatives we have found," said Ruwe.

The county began discussing the idea this summer and has yet to take a complete vote for or against. For that reason, the residents are not ready to give.

They want the project rejected and they want the commission to restore the requirement for public hearings in land use regulations. 

County Administrator Randy Harris and the Hipps Group, consultants for the medical waste company, did not return calls for comment. 

First Coast News

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