Covanta apologizes for smell, noise in Plymouth Township

PLYMOUTH TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Covanta is apologizing to the community around its Plymouth Township, Montgomery County plant following several recent problems with its waste energy incinerator.

Neighbors have complained that the noise was so loud it sounded like a war zone and the plant on Conshohocken Road released a terrible smell.

Covanta blames a sudden power failure on Tuesday which led to a loud belch, of sorts.

"Covanta understands the concerns from the community surrounding recent events at the Covanta Plymouth Energy-from-Waste facility. We recognize that this may have been disruptive to members of the community and we sincerely apologize," a statement released Friday said.

Covanta said starting Sunday, October 27, it will shut down each combustion unit one at a time for investigation and maintenance. It will also replace mufflers on its rooftop steam vents to try and quiet noise in the future.

"We have had a history of compliant operations in this community over the past 27 years. We recognize that regaining the community's trust from these recent events will not happen overnight," the company said.

Covanta Plymouth Renewable Energy, LLC, began commercial operation in February 1992 and serves eight counties.

According to the company, the facility processes approximately 1,216 tons per day of municipal solid waste, generating greater than 32 megawatts of renewable energy. It has been designated a Voluntary Protection Program Star facility by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for workplace safety.

Here is the full statement from Covanta:

Action Plan Following Recent Power Outage at Covanta Plymouth

October 18, 2019 - Covanta understands the concerns from the community surrounding recent events at the Covanta Plymouth Energy-from-Waste facility. We recognize that this may have been disruptive to members of the community and we sincerely apologize.

We have had a history of compliant operations in this community over the past 27 years. We recognize that regaining the community's trust from these recent events will not happen overnight. Our top priority is conducting our businesses in an environmentally-responsible way and we are committed to ensuring that our high operating standards are upheld. We hope that our actions moving forward will demonstrate our commitment to the community.

The following is a list of the immediate action steps we are taking.

Improvements and Investigation

Starting on Sunday, October 27, we will be shutting down each combustion unit one at a time for investigation and maintenance.

During this period, we will:

  • Further inspect the main electrical system that led to the power failure on October 15.

  • Replace mufflers on roof top steam vents to reduce noise impacts when the plant has a shutdown or steam release event.

  • Inspect other equipment in the plant and perform maintenance activities as necessary.

  • Monitor for odors during the startup and shutdown of the combustion units.


Enhanced Preparedness

We are also making efforts to be better prepared should events like a power outage happen again.

We are:

  • Investigating a reliable on-site alternate/backup power source that would be used if the plant suffers a complete loss of power. Power would be used to operate fans and ancillary equipment at those times.

  • Reviewing and evaluating all shutdown and startup procedures during loss of power events.


Transparent Communication

We have made recent improvements to increase our transparency and communication effectiveness. We are going to further this initiative through a new dedicated webpage, community hotline and the posting of continuous emissions monitoring data online.

Should any neighbors have concerns or questions, please call the 24-hour hotline at 610-569-9372 or visit covanta.com/plymouth.
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.