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William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
This past month a $10.5 million lawsuit was filed against the City of Gloucester City by Rocco D'Antonio, who was the developer of the proposed Organic Diversions Compost Plant in the Southport section of the City. The City in return counter sued the developer. The project was first announced in 2010 at a December 22 council meeting, at the time Mayor William James (now deceased) said a letter of intent was signed with D'Antonio to build the food-waste-to-energy facility at a cost of $30 million. The project was expected to generate 450 construction jobs, and 20 permanent jobs which would include laborers, truck drivers, and office staff. All parties involved said that once all permits are obtained construction would take about 9 months.
The saga of that development and why the two parties are filing lawsuits against each other is outlined in the articles we wrote. Links are provided below.
CNBNews is ecstatic that the Organic Diversion operation never got any further than the drawing board. We sit in the middle of two trash incinerators, one in Westville and the other in Camden City, we didn’t need another one built in this City. Those incinerators are one of the reasons so many Gloucester City, Brooklawn and Westville residents died from cancer, emphysema, asthma, heart problems and other COPD diseases. In our opinion, the officials who supported this plan were implying that Gloucester City is only good for trash disposal. Is it any wonder so many residents lack Community Pride.
Why did D'Antonio pick this City to be the home for a trash incinerator. Why didn't he take it to Haddonfield or Cherry Hill. In 2019 Jeff Tittel, head of the NJ Sierra Club gave the reason he didn't approach eiither city.
"Almost 8 out of 10 incinerators in the country are in low income communities of color,” said Tittel, “New Jersey’s facilities are in the Ironbound area of Newark, not in Short Hills, Union County’s incinerator is in the only black community of Rahway and South Jersey’s facilities are in Camden City and Westville, not Haddonfield. They are a failed technology of the 1970s and should go away with disco music and platform shoes."
“Newark and Camden garbage incinerators emit the greatest amount of lead in the United States, said Tittel. They are poisoning families and children who live near these facilities. The lead is not only in the air, but in the soil and ground children play on. On top of that, particular matter, toxic ash, cyanide, and more are coming out of the incinerator. These harmful chemicals have already caused health problems such as heart diseases, increased asthma rates, and elevated blood levels,” said Tittel. “Pollution from heavy duty diesel refuse trucks are also major polluters. Hundreds of trucks come in and out of the facilities and emit thousands of pounds of VOCs, CO2, NOx, and particulate matter.”
Developer D'Antonio said the Organic Diversion incinerator would generate 25 trucks traveling in our of Gloucester and Brooklawn on a daily basis. One could assume that those trucks would also emit thousands of pounds of pollution. He also disputes that his facility would emit any odors. The head of the Blue Knight asphalt plant at Jersey Avenue and Water Street also said the same thing. But, ask any resident who lives nearby and they will tell you that the smell coming from that facility burns their eyes and causes breathing problems.
Our research indicates the City Fathers backed D'Antonio's plan from the very beginning and really never did any investigation into effects of such a facility would have on this community.
The topic of the odors coming from the plant was discussed at a December 29, 2010 Gloucester City council meeting a week after the City signed a letter of intent with the D'Antonio. From that video we learned the City was apparently relying on a unknown Camden County official to investigate if there was any odors; the person traveled to Europe and saw one of these plants in operation. The official's name is never mentioned nor was there any documents produced. Mayor James inferred that he was comfortable with this person's observation. That video is below.
At the meeting John Schmidt, a community activist asked the mayor if any research was done to see if there was an odor emitted from this process in states where they are presently in operation. James said no; that the city was relying on that Camden County official who traveled to Europe and visited a similar operation. "The county did investigate that question and found that there would be no smell coming from the plant when it is up and running", said the mayor.
Schmidt said he found just the opposite and cited several sources in Colorado who told him that similar plants operating in their state did omit a smell. He further stated that in Las Vegas a plant was shut down recently because residents nearby complained of the odor.
We found a 2018 study, "Odors from a Compost Plant" regarding the 350 compost plants operating in Canada, which states, "Complaints from citizens about odors from a composting facility are not uncommon. As stated in an industry-based newsletter, "The thorn in the side of the industry does continue to be odor."
To be fair the Organic Diversions Plant on Water Street was going to be a closed facility. It was the first in the nation" read the headline of the CNBNews article. "The Country's First Organic Waste to Energy/Compost Recycling Facility to be Built in Gloucester City",
The City should have done a better job of studying this type of facility before signing any agreement with D'Antonio. And, council should have met with residents first to explain their findings before going ahead with the plans.
As we said earlier we are happy that this project never got off the ground. Sadly, 11 years were wasted, and the future of our waterfront remains were it was 37 years ago, UNDEVELOPED AND WASTING AWAY.
Compost Plant Developer Files $10.5 Million Lawsuit Against Gloucester City Residents for Breach of Contract
OPRA Request Reveals: City of Gloucester City and Southport Developer had a Contentious Relationship in Recent Years