NIAGARA FALLS – Henry R. Krawczyk is fed up with his near neighbor, the Covanta Niagara energy-from-waste incinerator, so the word that it plans to expand, with help from a county property tax break, has him boiling mad.
“I pay my taxes for living next door to these people who are polluting the hell out of me,” Krawczyk said during a public hearing Friday in City Hall. “I don’t see why Niagara Falls, on the precipice of this natural wonder, has to be the waste dump of the world.”
The hearing was held by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, whose board plans to vote Wednesday on Covanta’s request for a 15-year tax abatement on its $30 million expansion, which includes a rail spur to allow municipal garbage from Manhattan to be shipped to the Falls.
The company, which burns about 800,000 tons of waste each year, says it will replace garbage now trucked over the border from Ontario with the Big Apple’s trash, about 300,000 tons of it per year.
The tax break would save the company an estimated $8 million over its 15-year duration. Covanta said in its application that it intends to add 23 jobs to its current 86-person payroll.
“The wind blows in my direction and I have asthma now,” said Krawczyk, a longtime John Avenue resident. “That’s why this affects me personally.”
He said the noise, vibration and odors from Covanta and other industries keep him awake and prevent him from using his backyard.
Krawczyk threatened a class-action lawsuit “against those individual city politicians who are killing us … They promise jobs and stick it to the citizens.”
Joseph Collura, the city’s economic development professional, said the city supports the project, assuming that the total amount of waste burned doesn’t increase.
He said the city’s support also assumes that the Manhattan trash will arrive in sealed containers; that the rail spur will redevelop a nearby brownfield; and that the rail shipments will mean a significant reduction in truck traffic.
“It seems premature to support these projects without knowing the impact on public health,” said Amy H. Witryol of Lewiston. She said Covanta burns industrial and medical waste and asserted that there would be “no jobs retained or created because of the $8 million in proposed giveaways.”
Like all other IDA applicants, Covanta has to pledge its best efforts to hire local workers for its construction project.
“Who’s going to police ‘best efforts to use Niagara County labor’?” asked William Rutland, president of the blue-collar union in county government. “Greenpac [a new paper mill in the Falls] got huge tax breaks … and local labor got very little of the work.”
But Russell Quarantillo of Local 237, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he supports the project because of the local construction jobs.
Covanta has touted its project because the combustion will provide industrial steam to Greenpac and other Niagara Falls industries, helping to protect some 600 jobs.
Shirley J. Hamilton, president of the Niagara Falls Chapter of the NAACP, said Covanta, based in Morristown, N.J., has a long record of environmental violations in other states.
“This measure would allow thousands more tons of garbage to be railed here from New York City for a few jobs,” Hamilton said. “Some may think Covanta is a clean energy company, when in fact, it is not.”