Toxic threat to nature's nursery?

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"Although, obviously, the technology has advanced a great deal over the last 20 years, there are still emissions," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment on Long Island, said of waste-to-energy incinerators. "If the [smoke]stack is up a couple of hundred feet, the chances of emissions falling right down on the wetland right there is going to be remote. They probably are going to be carried a ways and then fall to the water or the land."

But Esposito quickly added, "The devil is in the details. We have no details" regarding Freeport's plans.

Meanwhile, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Covanta Hempstead Energy-from-Waste Facility Expansion Project in Westbury states that operation of a waste-to-energy unit results in particulate matter –– ultra-fine, toxic dust –– being deposited in the area near the facility. The particulate matter could contain trace amounts of heavy metals, which are hazardous to the environment and human health.

Why we need wetlands

Wetlands are among the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world, supporting a variety of species of birds, fish and other wildlife. Ecologists consider them "biological supermarkets" because of the ample variety of food they produce. Wetlands serve as nurseries for shrimp, crabs, oysters, clams and commercial and game fish.

These fragile ecosystems also provide a variety of benefits to humans called "ecosystem services." They include filtering and cleansing water of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, much like the kidneys do for the human body. Wetlands, full of Spartina marsh grass, also prevent erosion by trapping sediments from being washed away, and act as buffers against storm surge in a nor'easter or hurricane.

Toxic emissions

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