Thursday, August 28, 2014

Covanta goes to blows with Energy Justice Network

A heavy weight fight took place last night in Primos, Pennsylvania at the Delaware County Daily Times Headquarter Arena and broadcasted live on U-Stream

In one corner was John Waffenschmidt, vice president of environmental science and community affairs for Covanta. In the other corner was Mike Ewall, founder and director of Energy Justice Network. The cut woman was Shelia Hyland, Chester community activist, and the water was provided by Hope Hyland, Shelia’s daughter. The event was refereed by Phil Heron, editor of the Daily Times.

After the introductions and weigh in, the battle began. The smooth, articulate, and deadpan Waffenschmidt came out swinging with his technical overview explaining how the Chester plant was playing by the rules and the new trash coming in from residential New York City will be replacing some commercial trash currently coming in resulting in no net difference in the amount of waste burned in Chester.

Ewall, a fast moving target with a quick jab, took shots to challenge claims by Covanta that they are burning near, and sometimes above capacity. Waffenschmidt countered with evidence that plant maintenance and a bad winter accounted for them reporting a lower than normal burn rate than their normal ‘balls-to-the-wall’ operating posture. And, the operators running the plant do a great job making sure the plant plays by the rules.

The middle rounds focused on pollution at Covanta and health issues it creates in Chester. Waffenschmidt continued his technical approach to explaining that they are well within the guidelines set by environmental agencies and Ewall retorted that more needs to be done based on how large a polluter Covanta is with regard to the community that surrounds it. 

Ewall was relentless as he continued to punch with facts regarding specific plant emissions that are not monitored on a daily basis and how the government only checks some of the most dangerous pollutants once or twice a year, giving notice to Covanta when they’re coming so Covanta can scale down operations and pass inspections. 

Referee Heron asked Waffenschmidt if any of the 8 new jobs would go to Chester residents. He answered that Covanta is not allowed to bias the selection process and must be fair and equitable to all qualified applicants or risk a legal claim.

Cut lady Sheila Hyland interjected the concerns of the community regarding cancer, tumors, asthma, and city council selling the citizens out by approving the new construction by Covanta to accept the new New York trash. When Waffenschmidt invited her to his facility to go over pollution controls and the policies that dictate them, Hyland said that because of her asthma, she could not come near his place. She has a bad reaction anywhere near the riverfront without her inhalers. 

It was a great battle that is definitely far from over.

During the post fight interview, water girl Hope Hyland said that she hopes people make an effort to try to act like they care, and Ewall said this is the most organized he’s seen Chester people on environmental issues in the 20 years he’s worked with them. He closed with the need for Delaware County people getting involved because the issue affects them, too. 


  1. Was that supposed to be a clever article

  2. I think it was an informative article and I think it was a much needed article.