LIVE OAK — When Suwannee County resident Lori McCraney describes the ideal vision for her county, she never imagined an incinerator.
But plans have been formed for a facility that would burn medical waste — including amputated body parts and waste from abortion clinics — about an hour from Gainesville.
For the past few months, Suwannee County officials and residents have been involved in a struggle with a startup medical waste management company. The company wants to buy land for the incinerator, but many people don’t want it there.
McCraney, an administrator of the group Suwannee County Says No to Toxic Waste, said Integrated Waste Management Systems is looking to take advantage of Suwannee so it can burn medical waste, which would be trucked in from across the U.S.
“They want to find a little rural community that doesn’t know any better, and once they’re here, they’re never going to go away,” McCraney said. “They never specified where the waste would be coming from — just a 500 mile radius or greater.”
McCraney said the material would be “highly toxic.”
“Currently, anything that goes into a red medical waste bag at the doctor is being burned,” she said, “including body parts, human remains from abortion clinics, all kinds of things that are cut off people.”
Due to an overwhelming negative community response, four of the five county commissioners have pulled support from the incinerator.
They have sent the waste company a letter asking it to build the incinerator elsewhere.
Suwannee County Commissioner Phil Oxendine said the letter was “short and sweet” but displayed a clear message.
“We prefer they look somewhere else,” he said, but “they still could buy property and be allowed to build here.”
Clyde Fleming, a Suwannee County commissioner, said even though the incinerator could have created jobs for the county, he couldn’t sign off on a decision his residents didn’t approve of.
“The people of Suwannee County spoke out against it and … I felt uncomfortable,” he said.
Fleming said because the company has withdrawn its permit for the site, he thinks the odds of the company building in Suwannee are unlikely.
“It’s not going to happen, as far as we know,” he said.
Joy Towles Ezell, a resident of neighboring Taylor County, said just because the permit has been refunded, she doesn’t believe the company has moved past Suwannee.
“I don’t think it’s over with yet,” she said. “It’s not easy to stop a company… You have to depend on neighbors to help you fight some polluter from locating in your community.”
A version of this story ran on page 1 on 10/31/2013 under the headline "Residents up in arms about medical incinerator to burn body parts"