Ironbound Incinerator: Health Hazard

January 30, 2010 (Harrison, NJ) In the background of the new Red Bulls Stadium one can see white smoke coming from a smoke stack. The smoke stack is the Covanta Energy Ironbound Garbage Incinerator. The incinerator operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week burning garbage from New York City, 22 towns in Essex County and 11 surrounding trash transfer stations. Although garbage trucks were suppose to take the New Jersey Turnpike to access the incinerator, garbage trucks have made their way to the incinerator by taking a short cut through Harrison and through the Ironbound section of Newark.

Since its proposal, community activists in the Ironbound Section of Newark have complained that the incinerator posed a health risk to its surrounding community. Their complaints have not resulted in the closure of the plant but have resulted in some emission improvements. When the plant did not have enough garbage to burn it turned to importing garbage from New York City and other communities outside Essex County.

The Vice President and Regional Business Manager of the incinerator's current owner Covanta stated to the Newark Star Ledger that, "Since we took over the facility in 2005, we’ve reduced excessive emissions by 60 to 80 percent in those four years," "We’ve achieved a 99.9 percent compliance record. ... Our staff works 24-7 monitoring emissions. Our team has worked diligently to improve the operations there."

The incinerator has however been cited by the Department of Environmental Protection as violating the terms of its operating permit by excess emissions specifically the amounts of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and fine particulate over 900 times in the past five years. Community activists also complain that the daily exhaust of 300-400 diesel garbage trucks making their way to the incinerator and through the community have added to the pollution in the Ironbound section of Newark.

In its defense Covanta has pointed out that it took over the Ironbound Incinerator in 2005 and has operated the incinerator at cleaner emission levels. DEP's Air Compliance administrator, Edward Choromanski, backed up Covanta's statement by pointing out that the plant's 900 incidents of excessive emissions were taken out of context. The duration of each violation was brief a matter of minutes. Choromanski stated that the combined excessive emissions amounted to 10 to 12 hours per year.

Others however differ with the health impact the incinerator is having on its surrounding community. The Newark City Council passed a resolution calling for the incinerator's operators to update its equipment contending that its other plants have more advanced filtration systems in place. The Sierra Club has called the plant a "beast" that needs more and more garbage to pay off the bonds issued to build it in 1990.

For more information on the incinerator and the efforts to make it comply with its permit and/or efforts to shut the plant down, visit Green Faith, Ironbound Community Corporation and Sierra Club.

Information about the Ironbound Incinerator is available at Covanta Energy's website

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