ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Construction of a controversial waste-to-energy plant could begin before the end of this year in Allentown.

Officials at Delta Thermo Energy say they are moving forward with their plans to build next to the sewage treatment plan along the Lehigh River in the city.

 Earlier this month the state Department of Environmental Protection approved Delta Thermo's air quality plan and waste management permit.

The company faces one last hurdle before construction can begin.

 "The financing was held up pending the permits," said Atty. Marcel Groen, who represents Delta Thermo.

"Now that the permits have been issued, they can move forward."

Groen said financing has been secured for the $50-million project, "but it takes some time to get it done because it's complicated."

The lawyer said completion of the financing should take roughly 60 to 90 days.

Once financing is secured, Delta Thermo officials say it will take roughly 18 months to construct the plant on Klines Island.

 "Time will tell if we can actually pull this together," said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlwoski. 

The mayor added that, if the plant is built, "it will be on the cutting edge of technology that will really help eliminate our need to put garbage into landfills."

 Groen says similar, much larger facilities are in use in Germany, Japan and Korea, but this would be the first waste to energy facility of its kind in the United States.

"That is why the DEP plans to monitor them closely and is working with Delta Thermo to ensure that they meet emission standards," said DEP spokesperson Colleen Connolly.

Conolly said DEP probably will inspect the plant annually, in addition to surprise inspections.

The project is expected to create 80 to 100 construction jobs and  25 operations jobs.

It also is intended to give Allentown the option to use or sell energy created by burning municipal waste and sludge.

Many residents have voiced concerns about the plant, which they dismiss as a trash incinerator, including the potential for harmful emissions.

Some also continue to question whether it's a good financial deal for the city.