County Legislature holds ‘Ash for Trash’ meeting in DeWitt

Despite residents’ pleas, legislature does not extend public comment period

— The clock is ticking towards the expiration of a contract between Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency and Covanta Energy regarding the incinerator on Rock Cut Road in Jamesville.

That contract is done in 2015 – and the Onondaga County Legislature is paying attention. On June 9, legislators on the Ways and Means and Environmental Protection Committees held a public hearing for any residents interested in commenting on the draft scoping document for “Ash for Trash,” a proposed solid waste partnership with Cortland County, at DeWitt Town Hall.

“We’re at the very beginning of the process and we want to hear from you, the folks from the community here, which surrounds the waste-to-energy facility,” said Dave Knapp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “This is a long process and we’re at the very beginning of it – that’s why we want to hear from everyone.”

Ash for Trash would allow Cortland County to bring its 25,000 tons of trash each year to the incinerator, and, in exchange, Onondaga County could deposit its 90,000 tons of ash, produced yearly by the waste-to-energy facility, in Cortland County’s landfill.

This idea could boost the economy in both Cortland County, whose landfill has been losing money, and in Onondaga County, where the incinerator lost about $6 million between 2009 and 2011, according to OCCRA’s website.

A skeptical public

Each of the dozen people who spoke at the meeting was against Ash for Trash and nearly everyone asked that the legislature consider extending the comment period for the draft scoping document, which began on May 14 and was set to close June 14.

“This is a major community decision – this is like interstate 81,” said Don Hughes, who lives on Syracuse’s east side. “It’s a big deal. We need way more time.”

Several residents were frustrated by the county’s decision to only include one option in the document – continuing incineration with the Ash for Trash proposal. Across the country, incineration is becoming less popular in part due to concerns over the consistency and adequacy of air pollution controls, according to the Sustainable Sanitation and Water Management Toolbox.

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