WATERLOO — The first formal opposition to a proposed waste-to-energy facility in Romulus surfaced Tuesday night.
The Seneca County Board of Supervisors Environmental Affairs Committee voted 4-0 to support the introduction of a local law that would prohibit new solid waste management facilities from being constructed, allowed to begin operations or continue operation by expansion of an existing facility within the county.
That motion now goes to the full board for a vote Dec. 12.
Committee chairman Steve Churchill, D-Seneca Falls, made the motion. He was joined in supporting it by Cindy Lorenzetti, D-Fayette; Don Trout, R-Waterloo and Paul Kronenwetter, R-Seneca Falls. Committee member Greg Lazzaro, R-Seneca Falls, was absent.
The proposed trash incinerator would be built on a 48-acre parcel of land within the former Seneca Army Depot. Alan Knauf, a Rochester lawyer, has said it would burn up to 2,600 tons of household trash a day, brought to the plant by truck and rail cars. The burning would produce electricity and save 168,985 tons of carbon dioxide compared to a landfill.
Ironically, Knauf was hired by the county in 2015 to help fight a proposal from Seneca Meadows Landfill to bring sealed rail cars of trash from New York City to the Seneca Falls landfill by rail. Knauf has called the incinerator a “green project for burning waste to create electricity and reduce the amount of waste that is landfilled.”
He has said “a true environmentalist should support it.”
Churchill said the local law motion he proposed was drafted by Knauf two years ago during the trash train controversy.
The motion states that state Environmental Conservation Law invites local governments to establish stricter standards as are necessary which, in their judgment, promote and protect the well-being, safety and health of citizens.
It goes on to state the benefits of Seneca County such as for clean air, fresh water, abundant housing, cultural, historical and recreational opportunities; its status as the Birthplaces of Memorial Day and the Women’s Rights Movement, and four state parks.
It cites its location between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, drinking water sources.
“The present solid waste management activities in the county generate offensive, unreasonable and potentially health-threatening odors which affects substantial portions of the county, resulting in regular and numerous complaints from county residents,” it states.
The motion also points to current solid waste activities generating substantial amounts of truck traffic, which pose safety threats to motorists, pedestrians and others traveling in and through the county.
“The Board of Supervisors has a legitimate governmental interest in protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people who live in, work in and visit Seneca County from the deleterious effects of air and water pollution, odors, traffic, noise, dust, litter and vectors from the management and disposal of solid waste” at the landfill.
The proposed law, which would be subject to a public hearing if passed by the full board, makes exemptions for:
• Manure in farming operations where sound agricultural practices are followed, not including sewage sludge processing and spreading.
• Facilities that receive or collect only non-putrescible, non-hazardous solid waste, beneficial use waste or reuse, or legitimately recycled waste. Such exemptions are limited to citizen recycling programs, town recycling programs, composting, farming operations, town highway operations and bona-fide salvage dealers.
• Any bona-fide solid waste management facility that is in operation under a permit issued by the DEC as of the date of the local law. That would include Seneca Meadows.
Although not on the committee, support for the proposed law was expressed by Bob Hayssen, R-Varick, and Greg Wadhams, R-Junius.
“The Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority got Seneca County to join in 1985 and proposed an incinerator in Ontario County. But that county wised up and opposed it so never happened. I say no then and no today,” Hayssen commented.
David Kaiser, R-Romulus, said the sponsors will present the project to the Romulus Planning Board Monday, along with a special use permit request. “I have faith the Planning Board will not approve anything that is harmful to the town,” Kaiser said.