EPA tests air curtain burners for disaster waste disposal

On June 25, 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded a week long test in Louisiana for disaster debris reduction by means of air curtain burners or air curtain incinerators. Air Burners, LLC made available one of its largest above ground S-327 fireboxes. The goal was to compare the emissions data from the burning of vegetative waste, for which the machines are traditionally used, with debris from disaster demolished houses, such as those destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, in order to determine whether the machines should be used to dispose of such debris. Potentially toxic components, such as asbestos, were not included in the debris mix.

Disaster recovery planning must include the safe and economical disposal of debris. Air curtain burners have been used to deal with vegetative debris, such as trees, but they were not extensively used to reduce debris from destroyed houses. The cost of disposing of this debris by hauling it to a landfill is high. Burning it on site in an air curtain firebox would result in a quick return to normality for the affected residents and a significant cost savings.

The preliminary results confirmed that the mass reduction of vegetative waste is nearly 99% with no harmful emissions. The burning of a demolished house was equally efficient with little visible smoke. Extensive emissions samples were collected for analysis at the EPA laboratories and the results will be published in due course.

Air curtain burners were designed solely as a pollution control device for open burning. Their sole purpose is to reduce or eliminate the particulate matter (smoke) that results from burning clean vegetative waste. These machines do not incinerate nor do they inject any fuels to support incineration. They develop a curtain of high velocity air over a fire that traps the smoke particles and causes them to re-burn. One hundred tons of waste can be reduced to less than one ton of ash which has several potential uses, or could be recycled into the soil.