Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Burning issue: N.L. struggles to close ancient garbage incinerators like the one that author Michael Winter fell in

Burning issue: N.L. struggles to close ancient garbage incinerators

Oct 26, 2008
The Canadian Press

The teepee incinerator in the eastern Newfoundland town of Old Perlican exhales a potentially toxic mix into the air, one of more than 20 that will continue to do so next year despite a government promise to close them before Dec. 31.For years, the conical steel structures have been the only means of waste disposal for thousands of residents in the province's rural communities. In that time they've burned all manner of garbage and emit potentially hazardous dioxins and furans.

Author Michael Winter, who accidentally fell into the Old Perlican incinerator and survived, says he's surprised the province continues to use them."It sort of feels like the Industrial Age," Winter said."I really hope something gets done. Pretty much nothing has changed since I fell in."

Winter slid down the gaping maw of the incinerator two years ago after he lost his footing while dumping roofing shingles off the back of a pickup truck.He landed on a "burning pyre of everything" before leaping away from the fire and grabbing a plastic tub that hadn't melted yet to shield himself from the heat.He crawled to nearby ventilation slits to breathe before men at the site broke open the cast-iron back door using a boulder. He estimates he was inside the oven for about five minutes."I wasn't going to burn to death. I was going to cook," he said.


Michael Winter's novel The Big Why is available as an unabridged audio book from Rattling Books.