Anti Incineration Update: October 2019

Date: 29 Oct 2019 | posted in: waste - anti-incineration, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

From Saugus, MA

Wheelabrator is the oldest incinerator in the country, and is extremely close to many people’s homes, people whose families were there long before Wheelabrator was in operation. Wheelabrator has recently requested to purchase emission credits from other incinerators that follow the improved NOx standards set by the MA DEP. Meaning that they are “up to standards” but continue to release toxins into the air we breathe in our community of Saugus, Lynn and Revere. 

Read the full story here.


From Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

1) Marion County interfering with Baltimore’s efforts for clean air

Marion County is publicly intervening to stop Baltimore, Maryland from having clean air. In February, Baltimore City Council unanimously passed the Baltimore Clean Air Act, a law I wrote which is expected to force the closure of the city’s largest air polluter, the 2,250 ton/day Wheelabrator trash incinerator, and also the nation’s largest medical waste incinerator, a separate facility called Curtis Bay Energy, burning about 70 tons/day of medical waste. Info on this law is here:

Both facilities, and two industry trade associations filed suit. I have confidence that their suit will fail, but we won’t know for months. I just uploaded all of the documents here:

Marion County is part of a “Local Government Coalition for Renewable Energy” that is comprised of local governments that run trash incinerators. They filed an amicus brief on 8/30/2019 intended to back up the industry and urge the court to strike down the Baltimore Clean Air Act. This coalition is already represented through one of the plaintiffs in the suit, the Energy Recovery Council, which includes Covanta. Because of this, the City of Baltimore objected to their filing, and we don’t know yet if the court will accept it. What I find curious is that all of the other members of this “coalition” are publicly owned.  Covanta Marion is privately owned and operated, yet Marion County, as a public entity, is intervening on behalf of Covanta to oppose a law in Maryland that would impact a Wheelabrator trash incinerator (Wheelabrator is their main competitor).

Here are the filings: – amicus brief (see footnote on page 4) – motion (see page 1)

2) Covanta violations

Here’s a 93-page document filed by Covanta with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, outlining their violations, company-wide, through September 2006:
-page 75 lists one violation at Covanta Marion in 1999
-page 37 lists Covanta being busted by the state of Connecticut for tampering with their continuous emissions monitoring system to make it seem as if their emissions are lower than they really are

Here’s a much shorter document filed by Covanta with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in June 2018, outlining their violations, company-wide, but apparently omitting many violations (just older ones?):
-page 31 lists no violations at Covanta Marion
-page 38 lists one violation in Preston, CT and not the CEMS tampering one

3) Covanta and other incinerators rigging their stack tests and continuous emissions monitoring

A worker at a Covanta incinerator informed me this year that they rig their annual stack tests. They’ll store select garbage at one end of the pit and let it sit there for a month or two before testing. This is at “every Covanta and probably every WTE out there.” They use lot of cardboard (“cardboard is the best, they sprinkle it over the pit”), “dry waste, plastics are fine as long as it’s not all plastic at once; wood is good.”  “Household garbage sucks (food products and all that). Commercial waste is best.”

It’s supposed to be representative garbage. I’m told that a regulator could look at pit summaries every day and leading up to stack testing, and ask why they haven’t burned waste from certain days yet. Stack tests are about 4-6 days long.

This is echoed in an older experience in the Columbus, OH incinerator (closed in 1994) where they held onto specific trash and this info leaked out. See:

As for emissions testing, see the example in #2 above for Covanta’s tampering with continuous emissions monitors in Connecticut in the 1990s.

And more recently in Tulsa, OK;

From Covanta’s 2019 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

Tulsa Matter. In January 2016, we were informed by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma (“US Attorney’s Office”) that our subsidiary, Covanta Tulsa Renewable Energy LLC (“Covanta Tulsa”), was the target of a criminal investigation being conducted by the EPA. The investigation related to alleged improprieties in the recording and reporting of emissions data during an October 2013 incident involving one of the three municipal waste combustion units at our Tulsa, Oklahoma facility. In October 2018, Covanta Tulsa entered into a Non Prosecution Agreement (“NPA”) with the US Attorney’s Office, pursuant to which no charges will be filed if, for a period of one year, Covanta Tulsa satisfies the requirements of the NPA, including that it comply with applicable laws and regulations. As part of the NPA, Covanta Tulsa also made a $200,000 community service payment to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to fund air quality and environmental efforts in Oklahoma.



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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.