American Ref-Fuel's Niagara Falls Incinerator
In 1998 American Ref-Fuel reported burning 755,593 tons of solid waste in its Niagara Falls facility, near its annual permitted capacity. (NYSDEC Capacity Data)
American Ref-Fuel has garbage incinerators in Rochester (Massachusetts), Delaware County (Pennsylvania), Essex County (New Jersey), East Garden City (Long Island) and Niagara Falls. The Garden City and Niagara Falls incinerators submitted the lowest bids last year for Bronx and Brooklyn garbage, but New York City awarded the contracts to Virginia landfills. However, American Ref-Fuel is aggressively seeking future contracts for New York City garbage for both incinerators. (Niagara County legislator Legislator Renae Kimble has voiced concern over hosting New York City garbage; see Buffalo News, 4/19/99, 5B.)
Houston, Texas-based American Ref-Fuel is jointly owned by Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. and Duke Energy Power Services.
In New York State sending garbage to an incinerator allows a town to avoid state-mandated recycling because incineration produces energy. The Town of Niagara has enjoyed this benefit because it sends its waste to American Ref-Fuel. The town is expected to implement recycling for the first time, however, in the fall of 1999. (Buffalo News, 8/18/99, 5B).
A number of Buffalo suburbs including Amherst, Hamburg, West Seneca, Akron, Lancaster, Alden and Cheektowaga also send their trash to American Ref-Fuel's Niagara Falls incinerator. (This incinerator is located next door to Central Hudson Gas & Electric's co-generation plant.)
While garbage incinerators generate energy, burning garbage produces toxic chemicals that weren't part of the garbage in the first place. One chemical of concern is dioxin, actually a family of some 72 chemicals caused by the burning of plastic, a substantial amount of which is found all modern municipal waste. This method of waste disposal is far worse than landfilling, since it turns the local atmosphere into a dump and exposes many more people to hazardous substances they can avoid only by not breathing. Many of these substances bioaccumulate over time and are not readily discharged by the body. (For a discussion and links to more information on bioaccumulation, click here.)
American Ref-Fuel's Niagara Falls incinerator is one of the largest in the country. Among the largest of the 103 energy-generating incinerators in the country, the company's Garden City facility is also in the top ten. (See New York Times, 5/9/99, Section 14, p. 1).