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Source: Newsday

Critics of proposed Freeport incinerator fear pollution

Posted: April 5, 2010
Originally Published: April 4, 2010

A plan in its early stages to build an incinerator in southeast Freeport that could process as much as 3,200 tons of garbage a day - 20 percent more than the capacity of the Covanta plant in Westbury - has provoked criticism over potential related pollution.

Opponents set to protest outside Village Hall Monday night say they are concerned about air pollution from the incinerator and garbage trucks, as well as damage to local waterways if garbage is hauled in by barge.

Mayor Andrew Hardwick has said such a plant would lower the cost of local waste disposal and electricity, and raise village revenue from taxes and the sale of energy to utilities. But Freeport resident Patricia Rowen, 39, is so upset about the plan that she launched a Facebook page for its opponents, which has since gained nearly 800 fans, and organized the 6 p.m. protest.

"This is very upsetting and what's more upsetting is that he [Hardwick] is not talking to us about it," she said. The company, ZhongDe Waste Technology AG, proposed the project last November after meeting with village officials on a trade mission to China in October. Company executives visited Freeport in December. According to the proposal, the project would create about 120 jobs and generate up to 850 kilowatts of electricity a day.

The proposed facility, about 32 acres, would receive garbage from municipalities and carting companies from Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn, said village special counsel for intergovernmental affairs, Douglas Thomas. The waste would be transported mostly by truck, according to Thomas, who mentioned the possibility of sea transport as well.

In February, Hardwick toured three of the company's facilities in Germany and entered into a "preliminary memorandum of understanding" with the company, which agreed in principle to invest about $550 million to build the plant, according to Thomas.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito said the need for a new incinerator on Long Island was "dubious" at a time when two of its four existing facilities plan to expand their capacity.

Village Trustee Jorge Martinez said he's asked the administration for information on such a plan, but only learned details in limited public discussions. "In public sessions, the mayor indicated that there was going to be an RFP [request for proposals] sent out," Martinez said, adding he has not seen it.

Hardwick, who was not available for comment Sunday, posted a message on his official Facebook page Thursday asking residents to "keep an open mind" about the initiative.

"It is not my intention to bring anything to this community that would harm me, my family, or the residents of our village," the message said. "If a waste-to-energy facility can reduce the cost of electricity, reduce landfills, encourage recycling, create jobs and create a revenue source for the village by selling its ash, why not take a look at it?"

Thomas said the village expects to sign a memorandum of understanding with ZhongDe Waste Technology AG next month.