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Upset Lutz residents raise concern for health at commission meeting over proposed device for yard waste facility

In an update Friday, Aug. 19, Geraci LLLP withdrew its application for the proposed Air Curtain Incinerators in Lutz.

LUTZ, Fla. — A Hillsborough County Commission meeting brought dozens of angry residents in Lutz to speak against the permit for two air curtain incinerators.

People in Lutz are upset with the potential of two air curtain incinerators that could be near their homes.

However in an update on Friday, Aug. 19, Louis Geraci LLLP withdrew its application for the proposed Air Curtain Incinerators in Lutz.

Officials with the Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission confirmed there are none of these devices in residential communities in the county. There is one in Odessa and one in Plant City, but both in rural areas. 

An air curtain incinerator or ACI is used when burning materials like wood. It helps eliminate the amount of smoke and dust emitted into the air.

Geraci Partnership previously submitted a permit to have two in Lutz. It would be for a yard waste facility business. This proposal comes with pollutants and that's why people living nearby are worried about their health.

During Thursday morning's commission meeting, dozens spoke about health concerns. People expressed they have asthma, COPD and allergies. They said the smoke and dust from the ACIs would be dangerous for their health. 

People also had a ton of questions. That's why 10 Tampa Bay went to the Hillsborough EPC to get answers. 

The Hillsborough EPC director for the air division recognizes people have health concerns.

"I would say a person’s concern about smoke and dust is justified," the air division director, Reginald Sanford, said. 

Sanford explained the approval process for this permit is not up to the EPC.

"We understand their sentiment, but we have no options," Sanford explained. "The EPC acts on behalf of the state of Florida."

That means it's up to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Sanford recognizes the ACIs can impact air quality. If the permit is approved for Lutz, he said there will be air monitoring.

"Our inspectors would be out on a periodic basis," he added. "They would be checking the smoke levels. There’s a technique in which we read the smoke."

EPC inspectors would also make sure there is no hazardous material going into the incinerators.

People living in the area said regardless, they do not want these ACIs in their backyard.

"We’re going to make some noise and we’re going to do everything we can to stop it," one Lutz resident, Jenn Messer, said. 

During the Hillsborough Commission meeting on Thursday, there was a motion for staff to stop working on the permit. Sanford said that means the applicant would get the permit by default if no action is taken against them in 90 days.

In turn, that means two ACIs could be in place starting September 1.

There was a community meeting planned for August 23, but since the proposal has been axed, the meeting is canceled.

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