YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A town hall discussion was held Wednesday evening about a possible recycling facility for tires and plastics in the city of Youngstown.
The Steam Heat Plant on Youngstown’s North Avenue has been part of downtown since the late 1800s. Now the plant is being operated by SOBE Energy Solutions, which wants to change how the steam is generated.
The new process would consist of tires and plastics being used to generate the steam. The tires and plastic will not be burned, but instead, a conversion technology will be used that converts the solid wastes into gas.
At Wednesday’s town hall, multiple residents voiced their concerns and asked questions about the environmental effects.
“What are you heating these products to? What are you heating these plastics to? Five or six hundred degrees?” one man asked.
“For the one unit, it’s 100% tire, no plastic, I think we’ll be around 800 or 850,” said SOBE CEO David Ferro.
“At that level, you’re creating a crap ton of volatile organic chemicals, heavy metals, you’re creating carcinogens, you’re creating a ton of stuff that’s going to be contained in there,” the man said.
Ferro stressed the point that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has to approve their permits to install and operate, and that they will be monitored to an extent to be sure they are in compliance.
Ferro also stated that this type of process has not been done in the United States before, although there is a plant in Germany that uses this same process. Some took issue with this.
“As he said, there’s no facilities like this operating in the United States. So, if I can’t go and kick the tires at the facility and see how it works, then it shouldn’t be put in our communities,” said Teresa Mills of the Buckeye Environmental Network.
Ferro spoke about why the company chose to build in Youngstown, stating that it was important to find a place in Ohio.
“That provided the right kind of service to the community. It’s a service, it fell on my lap, I wasn’t looking for…” but in the middle of him talking, he was interrupted by a woman in the crowd.
“Boooo… A service to the community my a**. You’re looking to make money,” she said.
Mills spoke about solid waste rules.
“Twenty states have changed their solid waste rules to exempt pyrolysis and gasification from the solid waste incinerator rules. Ohio was one of them,” she said.
Ferro encouraged anyone who has concerns to request their permit submission from the EPA, which is public record.
First Ward Councilman Julius Oliver told the crowd that if it turns out this process is unsafe, they will fight it the same way they did with FirstEnergy in the past.