Group encouraged in effort to stop the incinerator

MUNCY — “We can win this” was the message from Mike Ewall, founder and director of the Energy Justice Network, to about 60 residents of Muncy who attended a meeting organized by the group opposing the proposed waste to fuel project in the borough.

Ewall, an environmental lawyer, has been working with the “Stop the Muncy Incinerator” group in its effort to keep Delta Thermal Energy (DTE) Inc. from locating its plant in the former Andritz building.

Citing statistics that showed that no new trash incinerators have been built in recent years, Ewall went on to detail the problems that arise from the process. He encouraged the concerned citizens to call the plants incinerators even though the companies trying to locate them in municipalities like to call them waste to fuel or waste to energy.

“They hate the word incinerator, don’t let them not use it,” he said. “They are not waste to energy.”

When DTE first presented its plan to Muncy Borough Council it called it a waste to energy plant, but it since has changed the name of the process to waste to fuel.

Ewall particularly was critical of DTE, which had sought to open a plant near Allentown. Robert Van Naarden, CEO of DTE, had claimed that the deal fell through due to lack of funding, but Ewall alleged that part of the problem there was corruption in the local government.

He also claimed that DTE has mischaracterized the results of its lab analysis. DTE has said that its process would eliminate 99 percent of the toxins from the municipal waste and sludge used in the process.

“Garbage in, garbage out,” he said. “Nothing is 100 percent. Something as toxic as mercury or dioxin is still toxic.”

The size of the proposed Muncy plant also is an issue, according to Ewall. DTE has said that it will produce 200 tons of fuel a day here. Ewall contended that size is not profitable.

“They’re trying to con local officials into making contracts,” he said.

An advocate of zero waste, which calls for not burning or burying stuff, Ewall said that the goal is to “totally get away from incineration and get as close to zero as possible.”

Countering the argument in favor of DTE’s plan that it would bring jobs to the community, Ewall said that actually more jobs are created with zero waste.

He encouraged the residents to fight against the plant by using “people power” on a local level.

“You can’t fight with experts alone,” he said.

He noted that the state has a right to clean air and water in the state’s constitution and that it is the obligation of county and local governments to protect that right.

He urged the Muncy residents to turn out for next week’s council meeting where a vote will be taken on a setback ordinance that would regulate where businesses such as DTE could locate in the borough.

“Find out who can give you what you want on a local level,” he said. “Figure out who are the fence-sitters and decide who influences these council members. Those are your secondary targets. Surround these people with feedback they need to hear.”

Ewall said that if the ordinance does pass, it is possible that it would be enough to deter DTE from locating here.

Prior to Ewall speaking, the crowd heard from Mike Gerardi, a microbiologist who has worked with wastewater. He told the group that his main concern was the prospect of sludge coming into the borough and the health risks that poses.

“Sludge is usually not brought into, but out of, a community,” he said.

He said it is important that Muncy knows where the sludge comes from and what type it is. He noted that, most important, the community needs to know how the sludge will be handled in case of a spill or seepage.

“The company owes you an explanation of what is in there, the risks and what will they do to minimize the risks,” he said.

At the start of the meeting, Bill Poulton, of the Muncy Historical Society, read a resolution stating that the historical society is opposed to the burner because of the negative impact it would have on historical neighborhoods.

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