NIAGARA FALLS – A waste incinerator’s plans to haul in New York City garbage by train drew a crowded house in City Hall on Wednesday night.
More than 100 people packed Council Chambers for the nearly two-hour meeting about plans at Covanta Energy, a facility that burns waste, producing steam, electricity as well as pollutants that are emitted into the air.
The company, located off 56th Street, is planning to expand its facility to give the plant rail access so garbage could be shipped in via train. The company has a pending contract to bring in garbage from New York City, a deal company representatives originally expected would have been finalized last January, said business manager Kevin O’Neil.
Covanta is expecting notice of an approved agreement “anytime,” O’Neil said.
Amy H. Witryol of Lewiston has been leading the call for the city to conduct a more thorough review of what the company’s planning and the potential impacts.
Witryol, citing concerns including a wide range of potential health and economic impacts, has requested that the city rescind its approval of the site plan for the project, asserting that Covanta’s application to the city was incomplete.
Witryol said she is not opposed to the project, but rather wants “a full review of all impacts to ensure those the public must bear are properly mitigated,” she wrote after the meeting.
Daniel J. Caraccio, regional vice president for Covanta, called any assertion that the submission was inaccurate or incomplete “simply wrong.”
The company, which says its $30 million project would create 12 new full-time jobs, has said it welcomed the chance to talk about its plans in order to get correct information out in the public.
The steam produced at the facility is sold to nearby industrial users.
The sentiment of the 23 members of the public who spoke at the meeting was split roughly in half between those who proclaimed support for the company and those who had questions and concerns about the planned work at the facility.
City resident Joanne Gialloreto said she does not believe there’s been enough emphasis put on the emissions released by the facility as it burns waste.
“Do we trade our health for some jobs?” Gialloreto asked.
Most of the speakers who voiced support for Covanta were either employees, vendors, employees of firms that have a relationship with Covanta or are members an organization that has received assistance from the company.
They included Michael T. Diloia, operations manager at Heart, Love and Soul, a food pantry and community service provider on Ontario Avenue.
Covanta has helped with building repairs, landscaping and serving meals, as well as assistance with planning for renovations, Diloia said.
The company also received the support of the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce, Niagara County’s business advocacy group.
Covanta’s project “will create new jobs and investment in Niagara Falls,” said Kory Schuler, the Chamber’s director of government affairs.
Where Covanta’s support came from was not lost on Lewiston resident Tim Henderson, who called incinerators “nothing more than landfills in the sky.”
“I haven’t heard a single resident who has become a cheerleader for them,” Henderson said.