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Public Hearing Wednesday on Garbage-burning Covanta's Expansion Plans

By Frank Parlato

The neighborhood surrounding Covanta Niagara has 1000s of families whose health, at least to them, is important.

Covanta burns garbage. As a by-product, Covanta generates power

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.


Some Harmful Gases Eliminated, But Not All

Covanta uses pollution control technologies to reduce, but not completely eliminate, harmful gases they release into the air, which neighbors upwind get to inhale daily.

Covanta has two acid gas scrubbers-devices that use a liquid spray to neutralize acid gases and fabric filter bag houses-that remove tiny ash particles.

"Do some air sampling around LaSalle, Town of Niagara and Town of Lewiston and you'd see some pretty startling results of just what's being pumped out into the environment and the resulting air quality,” said Lou Ricciuti, who thinks the new Covanta project is anything but "green."


Story Behind Covanta's Garbage Burning

Covanta Niagara utilizes a mass garbage burning Dusseldorf Roller Grate system where garbage is moved by metal rollers and transported through the combustion chamber, which achieves combustion by a rolling and mixing action of the fuel bed and control of primary air and roller speed.

The waste materials are optimally incinerated within an hour at temperatures of around 1,832 F.

The non-combustible components of garbage remain as bottom ash after incineration. Garbage, when burnt, reduces to 10 percent of its volume and becomes ash. It's almost like the good people of other locales that send their garbage to Niagara Falls are tithing us.

Covanta's burning process also allows for the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metals - about 0.024 tons of recovered metals per ton of garbage - or 19,000 tons at Covanta Niagara per year.

Magnets are used to separate metals contained within the ash. These metals are sold in the commodity markets and account for about 10 percent of Covanta's profits.

Ash can also sometimes contains hazardous materials and must be disposed of in specially lined ash fills. Regular testing determines whether the residual ash is hazardous or not.

About 10 percent of the total ash is either crushed and sieved and is used for road construction or used for cover in landfills.

The other 90 percent - the charred remains of a million people's old garbage, is sent to the appropriate local landfill where it will remain as a permanent reminder of a county that loves other people's waste.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

AUG 13, 2013