TICONDEROGA, N.Y. (AP) – An International Paper plant on Lake Champlain delayed the start of a two-week burn of tires as fuel until today after a day spent performing preliminary tests and briefing regulators.

Despite opposition from Vermont officials, IP received a permit for the temporary burn from New York environmental officials in September. IP wants to burn scrap tire chips to power its boiler to see if the chips could supplement fuel oil and wood scraps. The company says the test burn will help them determine what types of emissions controls would be most effective.

Vermont officials claim emissions from the mill could carry toxic heavy metals and other pollutants, blowing eastward over Lake Champlain and into Vermont. They tried unsuccessfully to block the test in federal court.

IP spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said the company will begin slowly ramping up the test burn this morning. The burn was expected to begin Monday, but Wadsworth said company officials were performing baseline tests and briefing environmental officials from New York, Vermont and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We’re taking a really slow, careful approach to this trial,” Wadsworth said.

Vermont will monitor emissions from a pair of air monitoring stations near the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, according to Justin Johnson, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The concern for us is more of a longer-term concern. Small particulate matter can get into people’s lungs and exacerbate asthma and other breathing problems,” Johnson said.

In addition, Vermont’s Health Department, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Porter Medical Center and outpatient clinics in Vermont had planned to monitor the public’s health for two weeks before the burn, the two weeks of the test itself and for two weeks afterward to determine if there are more illnesses caused by air pollution.

A group of about 30 anti-burn demonstrators – carrying signs with slogans like “Burning Tires Stinks” and “Intl. Paper Gets Rich, Vermont Gets Sick” – walked across the bridge from Vermont to Crown Point, N.Y., just north of the plant on Monday.

“I think this is a substantial health threat,” said demonstrator Jessica Edgerly of the Toxic Action Center in Montpelier, Vt.

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