In Muncy, firm told: ‘We don’t want you here’

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette
A Muncy resident smells a sample of engineered pulverized fuel that the proposed waste-to-energy plant will make to sell to power companies to burn to produce energy.

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette A Muncy resident smells a sample of engineered pulverized fuel that the proposed waste-to-energy plant will make to sell to power companies to burn to produce energy.

MUNCY — “You don’t live here. We live here every day and we don’t want you here,” summed up the reception representatives of Delta Thermal Energy (DTE) Inc. received from a crowd of borough residents at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night.

Organized by the energy group, the event was an attempt by Robert Van Naarden, founder and CEO of DTE; Jason Weisz, owner of the building and a partner in the business; and Zane Crowley, vice president of operations, to try to explain how their process worked and what effect it would have on the community.

Although the evening air was warm, as the evening progressed the crowd’s response grew chillier and much louder.

Members of a citizens’ group that has organized against the waste-to-energy — or, as DTE now is billing it, a waste-to-fuel — plant made up a majority of the crowd but left about halfway through the meeting.  Prior to the town hall session, they had set up an information and refreshment stand on the opposite side of Sherman Street.

When asked if they felt that the DTE representatives had answered their questions, Crystal Millard, who has been instrumental in organizing the group, answered with a definite “no.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Van Naarden detailed the chemical process that turns waste and sludge into fuel, which can be sold to power plants that now are using coal. He stated the hydrothermal decomposition process used in the plant puts chemistry and physics together to make an engineered pulverized fuel.

He assured the crowd there is no burning or incineration involved in the process and that there would be zero emissions.

Van Naarden said there would be five hydrothermal decomposition units housed in the former Sprout Waldron building on Sherman Street in the borough and they would use steam and high pressure to break down the waste.

The plant, when fully operational, is expected to produce 2,600 tons of pulverized fuel per day and also bring about 50 jobs to the community.

Residents opposed to the project have been concerned about toxic emissions escaping into the air during the process, particularly since the plant is situated within blocks of two Muncy schools.

“There will be no emissions, because we’re not burning anything,” Van Naarden said.

When the subject came up about the building being in a flood plain, Weisz  told the crowd that plans are in the works to make the structure flood resilient.

Punctuated by shouts such as, “We’re against your process in our town,” the meeting became a confusion of people talking over one another.

At one point, when asked “If you don’t live here, how can you invite people in,” the building’s owner replied, “I bought the building and I probably pay more taxes than you.”

“How can you guarantee my health and safety for my future,” a sixth-grader in the crowd asked.

“There will never be an incinerator in this building,” Weisz said again.

Van Naarden seemed seriously puzzled by the negative comments flying through the air. “This is a sustainable and beneficial thing for the community, and you don’t want it here.”

Not everyone in the crowd opposed the plan. Rebecca Noviello and Susan Styer said they can see the benefits.

“If everything they’re telling us is true, this is not a bad thing for our town,” Noviello said.

Both young women said they have been publicly defamed and accused for their position. Neither Noviello nor Styer reside in the borough, although Styer farms there.

Following  the meeting, Melissa Schell, a member of the committee that organized the opposition group, said of the owner of the building who invited DTE to consider the site for its plant, “You can go back to your house, but we can’t. It’s easier to pretend when you get to go home.”

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