Niagara Gazette

Opinion

August 25, 2013

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

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. 

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