Call The Town's "Waste-to-Energy" Plant What It Is -- An Incinerator That Burns Tax Dollars
At one time, the so-called "resource recovery" facility, bellowing smoke like an old industrial mill, was called American Re-Fuel. Today, it is Covanta.
By any name, the garbage disposal plant in Westbury, which boasts the tallest structure -- its smoke stack -- in Nassau County, burns nearly one million tons of gargae per year, at a cost of nearly $85 a ton.
That's alot of garbage -- and alot of money to pay to turn it into ash.
To add trash to the landfill (so to speak), the Town of Hempstead's contract with Covanta is up for renewal in 2009, with homeowners in villages located within the township looking at tax increases of $10 per household for the privilege of the burn at Covanta.
Imagine how much more the rest of us, in the unincorporated areas serviced by the Sanitary Districts, are going to have to cough up!
There's also talk of adding another burner at the Westbury facility, so they can burn more garbage. Question not only the additional, yet untold costs, to taxpayers, but also the impact on the environment, as the man-made clouds plume from the Covanta stack for all of Long Island to see -- and breathe.
Waste disposal is a growing problem here, and the solutions -- from hauling, to dumping at sea, to landfills, to burning -- are neither simple nor inexpensive. They aren't new problems, however, and Town, County and State officials have literally had decades to work them out.
Typically, they haven't, and soon, homeowners will be faced with ever-mounting garbage at the curb, and ever more onerous hits on that tax bill for refuse collection and disposal, already among the costliest to residents already overburdened by special district taxes.
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Villages await new garbage contract
By Anthony Bottan
A new garbage disposal contract in the works for the Town of Hempstead may mean the villages, including Rockville Centre, will be paying more to get rid of their garbage and it could force local officials to find alternative ways to dispose of village trash.
At the inaugural meeting of the Southwest Nassau County Villages earlier this month, that Mayor Mary Bossart and officials from the village attended, Malverne Trustee Joseph Hennessy explained that the garbage disposal contract with Covanta, a waste-to-energy company that takes the villages' garbage, is up in August 2009.
According to Hennessy, the Town of Hempstead's new offer to the villages, $85 a ton, would cost village residents roughly $10 more a month to dispose of their garbage. However, Hennessy said the town not only wants to charge residents more, but tack on an additional administrative fee to dispose of the garbage, even though the villages are within the Town of Hempstead. To avoid these additional costs, Covanta told the villages that it might be in their best interest to look for an alternative engineering firm to find a cheaper, and possibly environmentally safer, way to dispose of their garbage.
Town of Hempstead Spokeswoman Susan Trenkle said that though the villages have been in contact with the town, town officials are not in a position to make an offer to the villages because they are working out a contract with Covanta. Trenkle also said the price increase is incorrect and that town officials have not given any figures to the villages.
Vice President of Business Development for Covanta, John Waffenschmidt, said the company has been in discussions with town officials to extend their contract and hopes to reach a final agreement within the next six months.
Waffenschmidt could not comment on the exact dollar amount being discussed between the town and Covanta, but said, "the spirit of negotiation has been fair...and when the contract is finalized, it will be good, if not better from the view of the Town of Hempstead." He said Covanta officials have had discussions with the villages on what options each municipality has for garbage disposal. He said he feels it would be in the villages' best interest to go under the umbrella of the Town of Hempstead contract with Covanta. Despite that, he urged the villages to draft an RFP under the 120-W contract format, just to find out if there are any better and less expensive alternatives.
"In the long range, it will be the best value for the villages," Waffenschmidt said.
It was also rumored that Covanta was in the works to build a fourth burner. Some residents argued that it could have negative impacts on the environment and would cost the villages more money. According to Waffenschmidt, Covanta has interest in expanding and its Westbury plant was built with the potential to have a fourth burner. That decision will be up to the Town of Hempstead but at this time there is no contract in place to add a fourth burner.
Hennessy said when the Town of Hempstead signed a garbage disposal contract with American Refuel in 1988, all Nassau County villages were designated a set weight of garbage that the villages must bring there. However, once recycling became more prevalent, villages could not reach the designated garbage weights because items that could originally be dumped with regular garbage, such as newspapers and grass cuttings, now had to be separately disposed.
Villages were then paying for garbage they weren't dumping and asked for an addendum to the contract, which Hennessy said they were not granted. That's still the contract that is in effect, and the one that villages are hoping to change.
Moving forward, villages must now seek their own deal for disposing of trash or remain under the Town of Hempstead's plan and wait until a new deal is finalized with Covanta.
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