DEP seeks public comments on waste-to-energy plant

No approval in sight for controversial Allentown project

Posted: 5:55 PM EST Dec 06, 2013   Updated: 11:09 AM EST Dec 07, 2013
Delta Thermo

You have until Dec. 16 to submit written comments about the proposed Delta Thermo Energy waste-to-energy plant to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

A DEP spokeswoman stressed there is no timetable for when the state might approve the controversial project in Allentown.

Delta Thermo plans to build the plant on Klines Island along the Lehigh River, next to the city's wastewater treatment plant. The plant will convert trash collected in the city  into electricity.

A copy of the proposed plan can be reviewed in the city clerk's office in Allentown City Hall.

At  Wednesday night's City Council meeting, council president Julio Guridy announced the project had received plan approval from DEP, but that turned out to be untrue.

The document DEP has placed in City Clerk Mike Hanlon's office is titled "Plan Approval" and indicates DEP has authorized Delta Thermo to construct the plant  "in accordance with the provisions of the Air Pollution Control Act."

But DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly stressed the project has not been approved. She explained that document is Delta Thermo's application to seek project approval.

Connolly said that document has been placed in City Hall because people wanted to read the proposal.

She said written comments on the plan should be sent to: DEP, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 18702.

Connolly explained those written comments will be combined with comments DEP and Delta Thermo officials heard during a lengthy meeting on the project on Oct. 30 in Dieruff High School in east Allentown.

She said the written and verbal documents will be combined into a comment response document, where DEP officials will respond to all those comments.  She said DEP has up to 30 days after Dec. 16 to prepare that response document.

"Anyone who gave us a comment will get a response," promised Connolly.

She said the entire response document also will be available for public review, but  she did not yet know if a copy also will be sent to the city clerk's office.

Delta Thermo officials originally predicted construction would begin last spring, but that didn't happen.

In late October, Delta Thermo president and CEO Rob Van Naarden declined to make any new prediction, except to say the 18 months of construction will begin the day after his company gets its permits from DEP.

Connolly said the waste-to-energy plant, which opponents dismiss as an incinerator, needs both air quality and waster management permits from DEP.  She added that "most likely those permits would come forth simultaneously."