Niagara Gazette

August 25, 2013

GLYNN: Hooker couldn't handle Buffalo garbage as waste-to-energy plan failed

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — What goes around comes around. 

Take Covanta Niagara, for example, the company that has proposed importing New York City garbage via a special rail spur to its energy-from-waste plant off the Buffalo Avenue area, known now as Energy Boulevard. As demonstrated at a recent City Council meeting, local residents — especially those in that neighborhood — are not excited about Covanta’s expansion plans.

Ironically, on that same 12-acre site in 1980, the former Hooker Chemical Corp. opened its $74 million energy-from-waste plant designed to process up to 2,200 tons of garbage daily. At the time, Hooker officials estimated the refuse plant would produce enough steam to operate equipment 24 hours a day at the company’s adjacent manufacturing facilities along Buffalo Avenue. “An equivalent of almost 18 million gallons of fuel oil would then be freed up by Hooker for use by schools, businesses and home on the Niagara Frontier,” according to a glowing prediction from one company executive. 

In the wake of the Love Canal crisis, some local residents had the mistaken impression that the new plant would involve hazardous wastes. No such refuse would ever be used, a company spokesman emphasized.

A major factor in making the new plant succeed was Hooker’s ability to secure the daily fuel supply (2,200 tons per day) which seemed within reach since Erie and Niagara counties were generating then upwards of 40,000 tons of garbage each week. Hooker had eyed the City of Buffalo as a rich resource because it had been producing some 800 tons per week. Due to operating troubles, however, Hooker later withdrew its bid, saying it could not dispose of the Queen City’s refuse.

Hooker continued to struggle with its innovative “garbage guzzler,” plagued by design and equipment problems too. Within months, its capacity had been reduced to 25 percent of its initial target. 

Eventually, the energy-from-waste facility was closed. The $74 million plant — the final tab escalated to nearly $120 million — touted as a significant solution to Hooker’s mounting operational costs had fallen short of its expectations.     

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ON THE TRAIL: While campaigning in the Democratic mayoral primary in New York City, Bill de Blasio took a break from politics and started talking about his recent travels. Among other sites, he mentioned that he and his wife took a road trip to Niagara Falls and, de Blasio said, it was a “total blast.” He didn’t elaborate, but it sounded like the Cataract City was worth a return visit. By the way, de Blasio is a huge Boston Red Sox fan which could hurt him at the polls — if enough Yankee fans find out.

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ON THE MARK!: Plans are being completed for the 35th annual Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival 5K Run Sept 7. The race will start at 9 a.m. in front of the Key Bank, one of the sponsors, and continue through village to finish on Center Street, Proceed from this year’s event will benefit the Divine Mercy Food Pantry of Niagara and the UNICEF-Project Eliminate. 

Runners can register on line at racemanagementsolutions.com The entry fee is $20 (through Sept. 1) and $25 (Sept. 2 to race day.) A major change this year: the results will be tallied by Jaguar Electronic Timing & Finish-Line Services, eliminating that long wait for the winners and times to be announced.

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TRIVIA: The answer to Thursday quiz: Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-New York City, was the first woman ever nominated for U.S. vice president (1984).

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FAST FOOD: Overheard in McDonald’s in the City Market: “How’s your wife doing with her diet?” a customer asked his friend. “Fine, last night she vanished!”

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I’ve been called much worse. At least he didn’t call me the mayor of San Diego” — Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Niagara Falls, reacting to President Obama’s blunder, calling the congressman “your outstanding mayor” of Buffalo. Byron Brown, of course, holds that office, as the president quickly set the record straight. (By the way, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, 70, resigned Friday amid sexual harassment claims against him.)

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.