NIAGARA FALLS, NY - We're all familiar with hydro-electricity and using the power of Niagara Falls. Now, there's a new proposal to expand use of electricity in the Cataract City.
Niagara Falls could be the home a new dynamic trash port.
Covanta Energy has just been approved by the city's planning board to build a rail operation near Covanta's headquarters. It plans to use the land to transport New York City garbage to the falls. Covanta already collects trash from the Toronto-area, which it converts into electricity and steam and sells on the market.
"We're going to be burning the same amount of tons, it's just the place they're coming from will change," said Kevin O'Neil, the business manager for Covanta.
The plant can burn up to 821,000 tons of solid waste per year. Covanta wants to bring at least 300,000 of that garbage by rail from the Big Apple and stop its Toronto supply.
The company hopes this would reduce truck traffic, especially at bridges. But, environmentalists are not sold and claim that the project could add to more health problems here. They also say that Niagara County needs to rid itself of a concerning reality, as the county that takes in more trash than any other county in the state.
"It doesn't make sense to us because it seems to be that all the other companies would want to get in on that and be using it as well and it would just increase it even more," said April Fideli, an organizer for Residents for Responsible Government.
O'Neil responded by saying, "actually this should be an improvement to air quality, the rail would basically replace the number of trucks that come into the facility."
The city praises the plan believing it'll create jobs.
"The fact that they're expanding their operation, getting a more secure source of basically what's fuel to them going into the future, it helps to protect jobs, it helps to protect our tax base," said Mayor Paul Dyster.
But apart from construction jobs, it's unclear how many permanent positions will come here. Covanta leaders say the amount of trash from New York City will determine how many jobs are created - the more they get, the more they hire.
Nonetheless, the company says it's willing to pump $30 million dollars into a 15-acre space to build the port.
And the trash would come multiple times per week. The next development on the future of this project is whether New York City approves a contract with Covanta to bring the trash here. Covanta hasn't been approved to get it. Meantime, environmental groups like Residents for Responsible Government, think the plan is irresponsible because it could ultimately lead to more health problems locally.