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Alachua County Wants Hearing About GREC’s Operations Air Permit

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It was another restless night for Turkey Creek residents.

One man who lives there said he wished he knew when the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center LLC (GREC) ran its Biomass Incinerator. That way, he could sleep in his living room, instead of being woken from his bed.

His feelings were echoed by other Alachua County residents at the Alachua County commission meeting Tuesday.

Commissioners agreed to request an administrative hearing with Florida Department of Environmental Protection regarding its intent to issue an air permit to GREC. The request is due Monday.

According to the agenda summary, “GREC is currently operating under a Construction Permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” in effect until Dec. 31, 2014. Proposed modifications would delete the requirement that GREC submit a final plan to minimize dust, refuse piles and fires within 180 days before the plant becomes operational.

Chris Bird, the County Environmental Protection director, said permit modification will be a rigorous process and needs significant preparation.

“I’m not saying it’s a guarantee, but there is an opportunity to try to address some of the concerns that we’ve been hearing about and what staff has also been able to confirm,” he said.

The hearing between county commissioners and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be a platform to voice dust and odor issues associated with the plant.

Although noise is a concern as well, it will have to be addressed through ordinances on city and county levels.

According to the agenda item summary, the administrative hearing may cost $80,000, which would cover contracts for environmental and possibly legal assistance.

Ernesto Martinez, who attended the meeting, told county commissioners Turkey Creek residents are counting on them as their last hope.

“You are virtually the last straw. You are the ones that are going to make a difference, if a difference is to be made,” he said.

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