NIAGARA FALLS –The city Planning Board will hold a public hearing Aug. 14 about $30 million in construction projects at a waste incinerator facility that wants to bring in garbage from the New York City area.
Covanta Niagara, which burns garbage and turns it into steam and electricity while emitting pollutants into the air, has plans to add a rail spur that would allow it to accept waste via train.
The plant, which is classified as a waste-to-energy facility, is also planning to add a natural-gas boiler to produce additional steam, a new office and maintenance building, as well as adding a pipeline to supply steam to the new Greenpac paper mill.
The purpose of the planned hearing is “to create a public forum for the airing of issues” and allowing for a fuller description of what the project is, said Thomas J. DeSantis, the city’s senior planner.
Covanta officials plan to attend the hearing and make a presentation.
“We welcome the opportunity to help people understand what we’re doing at the facility and what we’re doing with the project,” said Covanta spokesman James Regan.
The hearing will begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 745 Main St.
Members of the public will be allowed to ask questions at the session, said Planning Board Chairman Richard D. Smith.
The Planning Board already has acted on proposals from the company.
Last November, the board determined that the project’s environmental impact did not require a full-blown environmental review. In December, the board approved the site plan for the project.
The facility burns about 800,000 tons of waste per year, and company officials want regulators to allow them to bring in between 300,000 and 500,000 tons annually via rail. The amount coming in via train would replace the waste coming in by truck.
The project means there will be no additional waste coming into the site than is already permitted, Regan said.
Currently, about 300 trucks hauling waste arrive at the facility every day.
Company officials expect truck traffic going to the site to decrease by 35 to 45 percent once the spur is up and running, Regan said.
The new steam pipeline is already under construction, and Covanta is awaiting approval from state environmental regulators before it can begin work on the rail spur.
In January, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency granted tax breaks for the project that are estimated to save the company $8 million over 15 years.
Three local residents – Amy H. Witryol of Lewiston, known for her environmental work, Shirley Hamilton and Christopher Kudela, both of Niagara Falls – wrote a letter last week to the state asking it to halt construction of the new smokestack and gas boiler. They claim the construction should not have been allowed to begin.
Public comments on the facility’s air permit can be filed with the state Department of Environmental Conservation through Monday.
Covanta officials are still in negotiations about bringing the New York City garbage to the Niagara plant, Regan said.