Public Hearing Wednesday on Garbage-burning Covanta's Expansion Plans
By Frank Parlato
On Wednesday (Aug. 14), the Niagara Falls Planning Board will host officials from Covanta Niagara LP at a public hearing in Council Chambers at City Hall to discuss the company’s $30 million expansion plans.
The public is invited to both listen and to speak at the session, scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
Covanta Niagara LP, a subsidiary of Covanta Holding, operates a garbage burning facility off 56th Street in Niagara Falls that emits pollutants into the air.
Sixty-six percent of Covanta's profits come from the tipping and service fees it charges municipalities to handle their garbage.
As part of their profit stream - about 24 percent- and to help soften the hard fact that they are bringing other cities’ municipal garbage to Niagara Falls, Covanta generates steam and electricity - from grey water used in their incinerator- and sells it to chemical plants or as electricity to the Grid.
The purpose of the public meeting is “to create a public forum for the airing of issues,” according to Thomas J. DeSantis, the city’s senior planner, who perhaps used the word "airing" a little too poignantly.
Despite improved technology that reduces toxic emission, burning garbage produces dangerous wastes in the form of gases and creates new hazards, like dioxins and furans, that are not present in raw garbage.
Covanta is nestled in a mixed industrial and residential neighborhood that has thousands of people living in close proximity.
Last November, the Niagara Falls Planning Board determined that Covanta’s expansion project did not require an environmental review - a fairly astonishing fact in and of itself.
In December, the board approved the site plan for the expansion which is centered around the fact that the company wants to bring in between 300,000 and 500,000 tons of fresh garbage from New York City by train each year.
While the planning board approved the expansion, the meeting is seen as a measure to allow Covanta's neighbors to understand the plan and to also voice objections, if there are any.
Mayor Paul Dyster said he supports the expansion because it will reduce carbon emissions, litter, and odor by having fewer garbage trucks as a result of more garbage coming by sealed railway cars.
Currently, 300 fuel-guzzling, foul-smelling garbage trucks go to the site every day. This would decrease to 200 trucks, as New York City garbage will ride to the plant on new railroad tracks Covanta will install.
The facility is presently permitted by the DEC to burn 821,250 tons of garbage per year, and Covanta officials say that, for the present at least, New York City garbage, coming by train, will replace an equal amount of garbage currently coming by truck.
About 60 percent of present garbage is coming from Canada.
Covanta officials said they will drop old customers to stay within permitted tonnage. It is not known if Covanta will apply for an expansion of their permit at a later date to correspond with the expansion of their facility.
As part of the project, Covanta already erected a 190-foot smokestack and installed a natural gas boiler -- prior to having their air permit approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Thanks to activists, Amy Hope Witryol, Chris Kudela and Shirley Hamilton, and media attention focused on the DEC by the Niagara Gazette, Covanta publically acknowledge their illegal actions.
The DEC, after being contacted by the Gazette, suddenly issued a notice of violation to Covanta. When pressed by the Gazette, a spokesperson said the DEC is considering enforcement actions that might include fines and injunctive relief.
It is hard these days to build a 190-foot smokestack without anybody noticing.
The company employs 86 people and their expansion, the company says, will add 23 jobs. The IDA gave them $8 million in tax breaks over 15 years which means Niagara Falls residents will subsidize much of the city services Covanta requires for the next decade and a half.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com|| |
AUG 13, 2013