Garbage Incineration Plan Causing Concern in Niagara Falls

October 3, 2013 Updated Oct 3, 2013 at 8:52 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

October 3, 2013 Updated Oct 3, 2013 at 8:52 AM EDT

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) The Covanta Niagara Energy plant in Niagara Falls incinerates solid and nonhazardous waste to produce energy and steam for local industry.

The company is now waiting for approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to change the way Covanta receives its supply of burnable trash.

Covanta wants to begin using trains to bring municipal waste to its facility on 47th Street.

"The rail line is an easy, efficient, and sustainable way to deliver the trash compared to having it trucked in," said company spokesperson James Regan.

Covanta is investing $30-million dollars at the Niagara Falls location and plans to construct a new rail-to-truck intermodal facility to handle the railroad cars.

The change will also allow Covanta Niagara to handle 300,000 to 500,000 tons annually of municipal waste from New York City.

"The contract is finalized with New York City," added Regan.

Residents opposed to the idea are now stepping up their efforts to challenge the plan.

"Importing garbage does not make for a livable city," commented Amy Witryol, a concerned Niagara County resident from Lewiston.

Much of the opposition comes from residents who live in the LaSalle area near the Covanta facility.

Citing concerns over railroad noise, emissions from the plant, and the impact on local landfills, upset residents are now organizing a more coordinated approach to challenging the project.

Monday afternoon, flyers were distributed in neighborhoods around the Covanta facility highlighting concerns and inviting residents to a Monday evening press conference on Frontier Avenue to discuss the issue.

According to Amy Witryol, residents are in contact with a Buffalo attorney exploring the possibility of taking legal action.

The upset residents are also calling on the State DEC to conduct an in-depth air quality analysis of the area before approving any change to Covanta's waste handling permit.

"We want to have a face-to-face meeting with the mayor about this," added Christopher Kudela, president of the Evershed Block Club.

Residents expressed concerns that the rail project will allow Covanta to expand the amount of trash they already handle.

"There will be no increase in the amount of permitted waste processed at the facility," added spokesperson Regan.

Regan also emphasized that plant emissions are consistently below State permitted levels and the use of railroads will allow the company to decrease the amount of trucks that come to the facility each day.

"We will believe it when we see it," added Chris Kudela.

The Covanta Niagara site plan has already been approved by the Niagara Falls planning board, and the project was granted tax breaks worth $8-million dollars over 15 years by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.