Concerns About Syracuse, NY Trash Incinerator Pollution

- January 6, 2015, LocalSYR

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"375","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 333px; height: 222px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]It’s the next step to allow trash from Cortland County to be brought into Onondaga County’s Waste to Energy facility.

Both counties’ legislatures this week have held public hearings on the so called “Ash for Trash” plan.

For two decades now Onondaga County's Waste to Energy facility has been burning trash only from Onondaga County.

The legislature is now considering changing that law to allow for trash to come in from Cortland County.

The the extra trash would allow the incinerator to meet the minimum levels of trash it handles as established in a new contract agreed to between OCRRA and the plant operator, Covanta.

It also helps Cortland County which has a landfill that's running a deficit.

The Waste to Energy plant has handled these higher levels of trash consistently from 2001 to 2008.

Kristen Lawton, the Public Information Officer for OCRRA, says "When you're looking at this material from Cortland County it is very similar to our trash. We have similar types of residences, frankly they're a more rural community so they may have less industrial and commercial waste then we have here."

Vicki Baker, an opponent of the plan says, "They're saying the Cortland waste is clean, I doubt that but they're way behind us as far as putting out hazardous waste material."

Baker was on the Onondaga County Legislature in 1992 and pushed the law banning the importation of trash from out of the county.

"The list of materials that are coming out of this plant is just phenomenal and yet we're told everyday that they're saving the earth a little each day. They never talk about the pollution that comes out of this," Baker tells NewsChannel 9.

But Lawton says, "We operate at about 20 to 30 percent of the allowed emissions for each of those emissions, that's how we've been consistently operating over the life of the facility. With the addition of Cortland trash those numbers will not change, significantly in any way."

The ash produced by the plant right now is shipped down the Thruway to a landfill in Rochester.

OCRRA says one big advantage to this proposed partnership with Cortland County would be cutting that travel distance in half, which they say is about the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road every year here.

"That's the benefit not only of the transportation savings but also the idea that Waste to Energy is a preferred method of trash disposal over landfilling by both the DEC and EPA." Says Lawton.

Vicki Baker said, "Drive along 481 and look at the litter along the roadside and that's going to increase now from the South up."

OCRRA says it's looking at only importing Cortland County trash. If the plan doesn’t pass and it can’t meet those minimum levels OCRRA will pay a fine to the plants operator, money they say would otherwise go to its green programs.

Click here if you’d like to read more about the proposed Cortland Onondaga Regional Trash Partnership.