The comment period has begun for a permitting process that would allow a waste incinerator near Seneca Lake

With a state permitting process underway for a proposed $365 million trash-to-electricity plant in Seneca County, Ontario County is getting its official response ready. 

Rochester-based Circular enerG LLC jump-started an Article 10 — a New York state process for approving large electric generating facilities. The company filed details of its proposal in a document called a Public Involvement Program Plan posted online.

The PIP calls for public input, and there will undoubtedly be plenty of it. Environmental concerns are coming from all directions including from the Ontario County Board of Supervisors, numerous other local government entities, tourism businesses and environmental groups opposed to the facility pegged for construction on a 48-acre parcel at the former Seneca Army Depot.

“The biggest problem with this proposal is the location,” said Canadice Town Supervisor Kris Singer, who chairs the Ontario County Planning and Environmental Quality Committee. “An incinerator has its own issues and byproducts and this hits right in the middle of an agriculture and watershed area.”

Singer said the proposal calls for taking water out of Seneca Lake and then returning water to the lake, raising a lot of concerns about effect on the ecosystem.

Singer said the Ontario County Planning Department is drafting a response to the Circular enerG LLC proposal. “We are not just shooting from the hip,” she said.

The comments will be backed by facts and data regarding the effect the incinerator would have on Seneca Lake and the entire watershed, to include long-term impacts on the environment.

Singer said since Ontario County is located beyond a 5-mile radius from the proposed site, the county will seek status as an “interested party” to ensure consideration of its comments. Singer said she expects to discuss a draft response at the next meeting of the county Planning and Environmental Quality Committee taking place at 1:30 p.m. April 9 at the county Municipal Building, 20 Ontario St., Canandaigua.

The incinerator would be built 3.5 miles from Seneca Lake on a portion of the former Seneca Army Depot in the town of Romulus. The facility would combust municipal solid waste and whatever could be burned of construction and demolition debris, to generate electrical power for sale in the New York market. Residual materials would be recycled, including metals that would be diverted from the waste stream and/or recovered after burning, according to the plan. According to Circular enerG LLC, the project would provide a state-of-the-art waste-to-energy facility and fulfill a state goal of landfilling as “the last resort.”

“The Facility will improve environmental quality and reduce the carbon footprint from waste generation by utilizing the most preferred option of waste-to-energy,” states the plan.

The project is proposed for two phases. If permitted, Phase 1 would consist of construction, to begin about summer 2020. Once built, the facility would begin accepting on average 1,320 tons of trash per day and produce about 25 yo 40 megawatts of energy. Phase 2 would raise the daily average to 2,640 tons, generating from 50 to 80 megawatts of energy.

Concerns over toxic emissions, train and/or truck traffic importing trash from downstate and negative effect on the region’s agriculture and tourism industries have been issues raised since Circular enerG LLC pitched the proposal last year. Circular enerG LLC originally took its plan for consideration to the town of Romulus, which overwhelmingly came out against it. Now, as the company pursues a permit directly to the state via an Article 10, opponents have also taken their concerns to Albany. A group from the Finger Lakes region was at the state Capitol in February urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reject the plan they said would pose serious risk to the Finger Lakes environment, economy and quality of life.

According to a preliminary project schedule, Circular enerG expects to submit a final PIP plan with the Public Service Commission in May. A public open house and informational meeting will take place this summer, with additional public events in the fall. If the Article 10 certificate is issued as planned in summer 2020, the incinerator would be ready for commercial operation in fall 2021.


Seneca White Deer neutral on proposed incinerator

Seneca White Deer Inc., the nonprofit behind the newly-opened Deer Haven Park at the former Seneca Army Depot, has not taken a stand regarding the proposed waste-to energy plant.

The park opened last year and promises to be a major tourist attraction in showcasing the distinctive white deer and other wildlife, along with the former depot’s military history. Seneca White Deer President Dennis Money said the incinerator is sited to be built less than a half-mile from the south end of the park in the town of Romulus. The park encompasses about 3,000 acres of the former depot in Seneca County.

Money said Seneca White Deer may take a stand after weighing all the facts.