11 April 2012
New York's City Hall is currently accepting proposals for a new non-mass burn waste to energy facility, which it says will be a new and cleaner way to handle the city's waste, but opposition is already gathering - particularly over one proposal to site the facility on Staten Island.
The city has a chequered past with waste disposal. In the 1960's the city disposed of around a third of its waste in 22 municipal incinerators and countless smaller units in apartment buildings. The remainder was sent to the landfill sites such as the huge Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island.
However, as opposition to the both landfill and the city's outdated incinerators grew, by 1992 New York had closed its last municipal incinerator and the by the end of the decade was using Fresh Kills to dispose of all of its residential waste.
The 2200 acre Fresh Kills site consists of four landfill mounds which make up 45% of the site and range from 90 to 225 feet (27 to 69 metres) in height - taller than the statue of liberty.
According to a report by the Staten Island Advance , the island is the only city-owned site offered to firms for use in the request for proposals, and the borough is not warming up to the idea.
"Staten Islanders have a chip on our shoulder. It's a pretty big chip. It's 55 years old, it's 2000 acres large," Staten Island Councillor James Oddo is reported to have said.
Furthermore, in a recently published letter, New York Assembly Member, Michael J. Cusick demanded that Mayor Bloomberg withdraw plans to explore the re-opening of Fresh Kills Landfill as a site for a waste to energy facility.
In his letter, Cusick reminds the Mayor that Chapter 107, Laws of 1996, permanently closed the Fresh Kills Landfill effective January 1, 2002.
That law, Cusick contends, did not just permanently stop landfill operations at Fresh Kills, it closed the site to all waste forever. Cusick explained that the 1996 statute specifically states that Fresh Kills shall not accept solid waste for "disposal" beyond the end of 2001.
"Disposal", Cusick maintains, encompasses the "burning of such waste as fuel for the purpose of thermal destruction of waste, and the burning of such waste as fuel for the purpose of recovering reusable energy."
According to the Assembly Member, the prohibition of "solid waste" "disposal" at Fresh Kills eliminates the lawful siting of a waste to energy facility there.
"The 1996 law closed Fresh Kills Landfill to all garbage beyond the closing date of December 31 of 2001. The law was drafted for that purpose, and it was the intent of the law to close Fresh Kills to garbage in any form forever," said Cusick.
"The Bloomberg Administration should follow the spirit and intent of the 1996 law, which closed the environmental nightmare of Fresh Kills Landfill, and immediately stop consideration of any project, including but not limited to waste to energy facilities that involve the transporting of garbage in any form to the former Fresh Kills Landfill," he concluded.
Fanning the flames
A later report by the Staten Island Advance claimed that a planned protest organised by Oddo at Fresh Kills had to be abandoned following a bush fire on the disused landfill.
"I'm sure the conspiracy theorists out there will have their theories. It's dry. It's windy. It's Mother Nature," the councillor is reported to have said as he dismissed speculation over the timing of the fire.
However, he did use the event to question whether the site is suitable for a facility that will be producing large quantities of synthetic gas.
The fire is now believed to have been brought under control.
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