A major municipal waste-to-energy incineration complex has been proposed for a 48-acre site at the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus about 10 miles southeast of Geneva.
The facility would be designed to burn 2,640 tons of trash a day — about 45% of the limit allowed at nearby Seneca Meadows Inc., the state’s largest landfill, which is now slated to close in 2025.
As many as 176 waste-hauling trucks would arrive per day, as well as 62 other trucks hauling ash, scrap metal and other materials.
If rail service begins as planned, up to 30 railcars a day could significantly cut those truck deliveries. Finger Lakes Railway already has tracks reaching into the Seneca Army Depot property.
Developers tout the project’s relatively low carbon footprint, projecting greenhouse gas savings of about 168,485 tons per year (of carbon dioxide equivalent) compared to landfilling an equivalent amount of waste.
But those developers are staying the shadows.
The proposal comes from a mystery limited liability company called Circular enerG, which was formed in January, according to state corporation records.
State records don’t disclose Circular enerG’s officers, directors, owners or funding sources, but they do list an address in Rochester.
That address is shared by Flaum Management Co., which is owned by David M. Flaum, a wealthy Rochester developer and voting trustee at Syracuse University who has also pursued upstate casino projects.
Also sharing that Rochester address with Flaum’s development company is Seneca Depot LLC, which reportedly owns 900 acres of the 10,000-acre former Seneca Army Depot tract. Seneca Depot LLC is shown on a map of the proposed waste-to-energy facility site near the corner of Fayette and East Kendaia roads in Romulus.
The first phase of the project is due to begin in December 2019, but it is subject to local, state and federal permits. When that phase is completed 2021, the facility can begin accepting an average of about 1,320 tons of municipal waste a day, while also generating 25 megawatts of electric power.
By December 2023, the waste load is due to increase to 2,640 tons per day, and generation capacity could climb to 50 megawatts.
The facility will have four waste heat boilers and four moving grate furnaces. It will require a 44,000-cubic-yard waste bunker and a leachate collection pit.
It’s unloading platform and feeding hoppers will accommodate trailers hauling 20-30 tons of refuse each.
The plant will have a 260 foot stack and a water tank with a capacity of 475,000 gallons. A special permit will be needed to allow for discharges into Reeder Creek, which the state has already designated as an “impaired” waterway due to its very high phosphorus readings (suspected of being caused by leaching of old munitions).
Developers will also need a special use permit, a host agreement and other approvals from the Town of Romulus. The state Department of Environmental Conservation will need to provide a solid waste management permit, a water withdrawal permit, and other clearances. A federal Title V Clean Air Act permit will also be required.
The DEC must decide whether to take the role of lead regulatory agency on the project or to allow that duty to fall to the Town of Romulus. That choice matters because the lead agency decides whether to require or waive a full environmental impact statement for a project.
An EIS includes significant public disclosure and input and often tends to delay projects. Generally, developers prefer local governments to take the lead because they are far more likely to skip the EIS.
But the DEC may insist on taking the lead and ordering an EIS in recognition of the project’s potential impact well beyond Romulus. The truck and rail traffic, water discharges and air emissions could be seen as a negatives for the influential wine and tourism industries on the east side of Seneca Lake.
“We are outraged that yet another assault on the Finger Lakes has arisen,” said Joseph Campbell, co-founder of Gas Free Seneca, a group that rallied business against a plan to store liquefied propane gas in salt caverns at the southern end of Seneca Lake.
“Residents, businesses and property owners on both ends and on both sides of the lake could be watching trash trains go by,” Campbell added. “This is not compatible with the wine and tourist industry’s vision, which is the economic engine of the area. The region has banded together to fight other ill-conceived projects in the past, and we will oppose this plan with equal fervor.”
The project is located in an area restricted by deed to commercial and industrial uses. The site is within an area where paint was allegedly disposed of, where contaminated soil was removed and where groundwater monitoring continues.
Developers say they want to turn these contaminated lands into a beneficial use.