Snuffed 

With no fanfare, Detroit's incinerator quietly shuts down

Apparently no one noticed, and no press conferences were held to alert residents, but the city quietly began landfilling its trash on Oct. 1, according to Dan Lijana, a spokesperson for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

For more than 20 years, Detroit's municipal waste has been disposed of at the waste-to-energy facility located on the city's east side. But the incinerator's operator and minority owner, Covanta Energy, issued a statement saying that it closed the facility Oct. 1 because of "economic factors."

Although the facility stopped accepting trash Oct. 1, it continued to burn stockpiled inventory until last Friday, according to the company.

A contingency plan formulated by the Greater Detroit Resource Recovery Authority — the quasi-governmental agency charged with overseeing disposal of Detroit's trash — was implemented at the beginning of the month, with trash being trucked to a landfill.

The problem for Covanta and the facility's majority owner, Energy Investors Fund, is that they were unable to enter into a steam purchase contract with Detroit Thermal, which provides steam for the heating and cooling of nearly 150 downtown buildings.

Steam has continued to flow through the underground system because Detroit Thermal has the capacity to produce its own steam by burning natural gas.

At the same time, Detroit Thermal's parent company, Thermal Ventures II of Youngstown, Ohio, has been in negotiations to buy the incinerator. According to Covanta spokesperson James Regan, a 90-day option to purchase the facility expired at the end of September without a deal being reached. It has been rumored, but not confirmed, that another investor had partnered with Thermal Ventures II in an attempt to buy the incinerator.

Covanta, in a prepared statement, said: "We are still exploring scenarios with a myriad of stakeholders in Detroit. If the right agreements can be reached, the plant will reopen."

The facility's closure substantiates much of what opponents of the incinerator have long contended, says Brad van Guilder of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. A staunch critic of the incinerator, van Guilder has been a leader in the fight to have it permanently shuttered.

He says the shutdown adds credence to longstanding claims that the facility isn't economically viable, and cannot produce steam at a competitive price.

"This facility has never been essential to the city of Detroit," he says. "It has just been extremely costly."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 7, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation