By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Residents will have a chance to discuss the expansion of a local waste-to-energy facility at tonight's meeting of the Niagara Falls Planning Board.
Members of the board are scheduled to hear public comments during an informational session on the expansion of Covanta Niagara's facilities, located off of 56th Street. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at city hall, 745 Main St.
Tom DeSantis, the city's chief planner, said the meeting is not compelled by any pending board action, but is meant to provide clarification and any opportunity to discuss residents' concerns with the project.
"The point of the meeting is, not only to hear information from Covanta, but to hear information from the public and address any concerns they may have," DeSantis said.
The planning board approved a negative declaration as part of the state's environmental review process earlier this year, clearing the way for the expansion to move forward.
DeSantis said the planning board does not intend to revisit its decision.
"The city will not recommend that they revisit that previous approval," DeSantis said.
Representatives from the company will be on hand to explain the expansion and field questions from the public, DeSantis said.
The company's expansion plans include:
• Development of a rail spur that will allow the facility to accept garbage from New York City by train. The New York City Department of Sanitation would ship upwards of 500,000 tons of waste to the Niagara facility each year, according to a draft contract between the company and the city department.
• Construct a new steam pipline that will provide electricity to the newly opened Greenpac linerboard mill. This portion of the project has already been completed.
• Install a natural gas furnace that will allow the company to continue providing energy to Greenpac and other customers during down time for the plant. The company began installing the furnace without the approval of the Department of Environmental Conservation in July. Although representatives from Covanta say the DEC had "knowledge and concurrence" of the work, the state regulatory agency sent the company a letter ordering them to halt the installation and is considering fines.
• Construct a maintenance shop and office building.
• Improve storm water drainage on the grounds.
• Remediate a brownfield on the site.
Covanta representatives have stressed that the changes at the facility will improve efficiency, but the company will not be allowed to burn any more waste than it can under its current DEC permits.
The company is awaiting approval of its application for the renewal of a Title V air permit from the DEC. The permit allows the company to run its incinerators. The renewal application also includes a request for permission to run the new natural gas boiler.IF YOU GO • WHAT: Planning board meeting • WHEN: 6 p.m. today • WHERE: City hall, 745 Main St. Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257