Niagara Gazette — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to replace its on-site monitor at the Covanta Niagara waste-to-energy plant, with the position remaining vacant since an employee retired several months ago.
In an email from spokesperson Megan Gollwitzer this week, the DEC confirmed that the on-site monitor for the plant — a position funded by Covanta itself — has been and continues to be vacant.
“The monitor has retired and DEC is in the process of pursuing a replacement to fill this vacancy,” Gollwitzer said.
In a follow-up statement sent to the Gazette late Friday, an agency official said “other DEC staff” have been handling monitoring oversight since the monitor’s retirement.
“It’s difficult to give a precise time frame for hiring a replacement, but the DEC is working to fill the position as soon as possible,” said spokesman Peter Constantakes. “Until the monitoring position is filled, DEC staff will conduct site visits on a regular basis.”
In response to questions from the Gazette, Constantakes confirmed that for the state fiscal year 2013-14, Covanta provided $162,000 to fund the monitor position.
A group of local residents — Amy Hope Witryol of Lewiston, Shirley Hamilton of Niagara Falls and Chris Kudela of Niagara Falls — concerned with the absence of the monitor and other environmental issues at the plant, sent a Sept. 25 letter to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens urging him to fill the position immediately.
“This letter is to request DEC expedite approval to fill an on-site monitor position at Covanta Niagara that has been vacant for months,” the letter reads. “Covanta’s Solid Waste permit requires it reimburse DEC for this expense, therefore, the delay is bewildering.”
Witryol said she does not understand how the DEC can include a provision requiring the company to have an on-site monitor in the air permit that regulates Covanta’s output of pollutants and allow the operation to continue without a new monitor in place.