Waste to energy plant officials get poor reception
MUNCY – The waste to energy plant being proposed in the borough of Muncy is continuing to be a burning issue. A town hall meeting with the owners of the project and the public took place last Wednesday evening, October 19 in the old parking lot of the Andritz building on Sherman Street.
Local officials, the Muncy police department, the owner of the building, Jason Weisz and representatives from Delta Thermo Energy, Inc., were in attendance to discuss plans for the facility. The company is interested in setting up an industrial waste plant that, according to Delta Thermo, will provide clean and green energy.
Since the building is located just a few blocks from Muncy High School and sits among residential housing in a flood zone, many of Muncy’s residents are against it. A protest group, “Stop the Muncy Waste Incinerator” has now gained over 1500 signatures and more continue to sign petitions.
Temperatures were warm that night and much of the crowd who gathered were also heated. Their reception was not welcome, although the meeting was organized to give Delta Thermo an opportunity to explain how their industrial plant will work.
There were a series of contradictions given as residents demanded answers to their questions. One of the questions raised was employment. In the beginning they said over 50 jobs will be provided but towards the end they said only half that amount and contractors will be outsourced to haul the garbage that will be used to manufacture a form of condensed pellets to be sold to coal fired plants.
Asked where these types of plants exist elsewhere, president of Delta Thermo Energy, Robert Van Naarden replied that several countries use this technology such as Germany, Romania, Russia, South Africa, China and Japan and so far no complaints have come from any of them.
However, another contradiction came when a Muncy resident from a local citizens’ protest group said that only Japan has one and the technology is only two years old.
Other points of contention were the flood plain and emissions. Zane Crowley, Vice President of Operations for DTE said there will be no emissions. “There will be no burning or incinerator,” he assured which cannot be within 300 meters of schools or residential dwellings.
The crowd grew restless as the evening went on, objecting to their answers and many residents left before the meeting was over. “We are not burning anything,” continued VanNaarden. “This will be sustainable and manageable,” he told the crowd. But they were not satisfied with his answers. They do not want something like this near the schools. “Go somewhere else,” they shouted, “and put it in your back yard.”
The process is called hydro thermal decomposition and it is steam powered using a pressure vessel up to 300 pounds per square inch to break down the molecular bonds of the garbage. Supposedly the ultimate result will be inert components that will be disposed safely according to Crowley. Garbage will be sorted with “photo optical sorters that are laser driven on raised loaders.” The material will be condensed and “then it goes to the water treatment plant.”
Those present from the “Stop the Muncy Incinerator” group were displeased with this process as any number of accidents could occur with this and the waste will possibly end up in the drinking water.
“Why here?” was the recurring question. “Why the center of town?”
Owner Jason Weisz who bought the building in 2014 and is from New Jersey explained that there is only one thing he can do with the building after he made over 300 inquiries. “It is zoned industrial,” he said “and at one time it was a foundry here.” The building has 36 foot high ceilings. “There were no takers except for Delta,” he said. “It is great for a waste to energy plant,” which he read about on the internet and discovered Delta Thermo Inc. He said he contacted them to see if they can come here and look at the building to see if they can create electricity. “I am taking chances,” added Weisz, “hoping this thing works out. This is about capitalism, taking an abandoned building and employing hundreds of people and making it profitable. I pay more taxes here than you,” he told the unpleased crowd.
One sixth grade student from Muncy raised his hand and asked, “How can you guarantee the safety and health of my future?” His response, “We are not going to have an incinerator here! This will be a beneficial recycling facility, an inert form of energy.”
Over 200 tons of waste are needed for the process. “As for the residue that they need to clean out of the pressure vessel, it is far less dangerous than the gasses emitted by the foundry that operated in that same plant for decades,” said Brian Hess. “The problem I have with this plant has to do with the trucks rolling through town and their promise of keeping the smell contained, because I don’t think they were able to adequately explain that.”
John DeWald said, “We can’t get a resolution with an outburst concerned about properties and air quality. There are a lot of contradictions here. I’m not sure I can trust this with my family and community.”
Garman Zehner wanted to know if there were any contracts in place for the pellets or the disposal. “I can’t talk about that,” VanNaarden said. He did say that 5-6 truck loads would be hauled every day. Zehner whose main concern is with emissions, sludge and spillage said, “I have been here for 54 years and I care about this town.”
“This is a disposable by-product with no residual trash lying around. Everything will get processed within 24 hours,” replied Crowley. “Odors will be drawn up through charcoal filters.”
55 gallon barrels will hold the sludge which will need to be dumped, sorted, recycled and resold. The company is seeking air permits and solid waste permits.
The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 1st at 7 p.m. at the Myers Elementary building with the Muncy Borough Council.