Proposed Waste-To-Energy Trash Incinerator Causing Stir In Finger Lakes


A rendering of the potential trash incinerator facility that Circular enerG hopes to build in Seneca County. CIRCULAR ENERG

SYRACUSE (WRVO) – A proposed incinerator in Seneca County that could turn trash into electricity is drawing some criticism from the community.

The Rochester-based Circular enerG wants to build the 48-acre facility on part of the now empty Seneca Army Depot in Romulus, a Finger Lakes town between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. It would burn solid municipal waste, brought in by truck and or rail, to power a turbine.

The company hopes to start construction on the project in 2019 and be ready to start burning by 2021. At that point, Circular enerG estimates it could accept 1,300 tons of trash per day, resulting in less than 25 megawatts. Those amounts would be doubled by the end of phase two, slated for completion in 2023.

Circular enerG attorney Alan Knauf says the project is good for the environment because it produces less emissions than burning coal or natural gas. And Knauf says, it’s a better alternative to just dumping the trash in a landfill, like the one in Seneca County – the largest in the state.

“I mean how much sense does that make taking good fuel, throwing it in a pile, letting it rot, causing global warming and odors then we’re going to go frack for gas in Pennsylvania or drill for oil in North Dakota or wherever,” Knauf said. “We should be getting the best benefit out of that waste.”

But a coalition of concerned Romulus residents, businesses and organizations are challenging its supposed benefits. Opponents like Mary Anne Kowalski say the facility will unleash odors and emissions that could harm the area and its trademark Finger Lakes wine industry.

“It’s just a disaster as far as our way of life,” Kowalski said. “Since the depot closed, the area has become a vineyard capital. We are a major tourist destination for wineries, distilleries, breweries, creameries and a major tourist hub. The wine industry brings in billions of dollars every year into the New York economy and none of the wineries are in favor of having their tourists compete with trash trucks every day. It’s a terrible idea in general and a particularly bad idea here.”

Kowalski notes that the incinerator wouldn’t totally eliminate the garbage either, leaving ash that could wind back up in the landfill. Knauf says that’s true, but Circular enerG would recycle residual materials after the burning and possibly use the ash for materials like concrete.

The project will be reviewed by a board made up of state and local officials. It could take a couple of years for a decision to be made.