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Facts, Pleas of Residents Not Enough, Council Awards Covanta 2 Year Contract Extension

At tonight's Plymouth Township Council Meeting residents came armed with facts supporting their request to have Council send the township's trash to an alternative disposal method only to have the Township award a two-year contract extension.

Although attendance was not overwhelming at tonight's meeting it was a contentious group that showed to voice their concerns. The group of concerned residents was pleading with the Council to not renew the Township's contract with Covanta. The agenda item was kicked off by Councilman Chris Manero, who was just overwhelmingly re-elected on November 5. Councilman Manero, in short, stated that while he was not in love with the options and whishes we could pursue more eco-friendly trash or waste reduction measures like he saw during a recent trip to California, we simply are not there and this two-year extension was the Township's best option and what can be done locally. Manero noted in the past this contract was a rubber stamp vote and only recent issues at the plant caused enough concern for Council to take a closer look at this contract. Manero stated with the environmental attorney recently retained along with the environmental engineer hired earlier in the meeting the next two years give the Township some room to observe and act to make future decisions.

A Covanta rep was also in attendance and cited ongoing capital improvement projects to help meet minimum standards required by law. The Covanta rep also touted Covanta's open-door policy when communicating with residents and the existence of the resident's hotline.

Residents lined up to tell their stories of sickness and inconvenience due to the actions, or inactions, of Covanta. One such resident provided a print out of 33 violations in which the Covanta Plymouth plant had been cited. Those violations ranked it #1 if all Covanta plants for citations. The resident also provided information about the second-worst offender in the Covanta portfolio which was closed due to its numerous violations. The resident went on to cite how his non-ashmatic child developed asthma-like symptoms just 24 hours after the last Covanta event.

Another resident, who cited herself as an air-quality expert told how her car is covered in ash after high wind events or plant malfunctions. This resident went on to state she tests the ash from other plants for a living, and you do not want that ash on your car or on your kids' hands.

A third resident questioned why months after retaining an environmental attorney the Township has no plans or actionable items it can take based on its own expert.

Another resident cited the community hotline; he claims once when seeing cranes and men working on the plant he phone the hotline which was answered by "a young-sounding kid" who did not know anything about such work and stated everything is fine. This resident also questioned why when required by the EPA to notify residents within 2 hours of any event at the plant, residents did not get notified until 5 hours after the last event occurred. "What were you doing during that time?" the resident stated while looking towards Covanta representatives.

Other concerns of residents included the wish to spend the money being spent on attorneys and putting it towards another disposal method such as a landfill. Encouraging composting among residents as a way to reduce the overall waste of the township.

Even with these concerns and facts, the township was not prepared to do anything but renew such a contract. The only concession residents can look to is the fact the Council did not renew for another 5 years. The measure to approve another 2-year contract was passed with a 3-1 vote. (D) Karen Bramblett was not in attendance. (R) Lenore Bruno was the only no vote. Councilwomen Bruno represents the residents nearest to the Covanta plant and is finishing her term; (D) Kathy Bandish will replace Bruno on January 4, 2020.

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