Youngtown citizens and organization voice concern over SOBE Thermal Energy plans
Citizens in the community of Youngstown continue to voice concerns regarding plans for the new company SOBE Thermal Energy to start work on North Avenue.
The plant would convert waste into gas and electricity for parts of the city.
Youngstown non-profit organization A.C.T.I.O.N. along with concerned citizens sent a letter to the city, stating they're "pleased to see a coal-fired plant leave, but the problems SOBE pose to citizen's health are much worse."
"I think one of my concerns as a parent, grandparent is we have such a higher amount of asthma in this community, incredible numbers," A.C.T.I.O.N Lead Organizer Vicki Vicars said, "So I think we want to be incredibly careful to see what other pollutants we're adding that would impact those numbers and those kids with asthma."
The Mayor of Youngstown and Law Director said they are still looking into the details of the letter, but SOBE'S CEO Dave Ferro said it's up to the EPA to permit his business and that SOBE must demonstrate the waste-to-energy plant is safe.
"We have specific emission requirements that are governed by the state of Ohio that we have to adhere to," Ferro said, "If we cannot demonstrate our ability to meet those emission requirements, we will not be able to do what we are doing."
Ferro said through their system of gasification, they remove pollutants and hazardous components.
"With the technology that we're doing with the gasification and the gas cleaning that we do, we remove all the pollutants and the hazardous components that would typically be accompanied through the traditional system," he said.
Ferro said SOBE plans to initially heat tires, turn them into gas, and provide energy cost-efficiently. He said they do have capabilities to heat other materials like plastic as a future possibility.
"This is a health issue for our community and it's going to impact particularly low-income folks who live in the city and minorities and we don't want to accept that," Vicars added, but Ferro said he believes he will be able to prove the process is safe.
Meanwhile, the EPA said they are still in the early stages of reviewing Ferro's permit application, but said the permitting process will include more public input.
The EPA added it will "ensure human health and the environment."
SOBE Thermal Energy hopes to be up and running next summer.
Mayor Tito Brown said he plans to make sure the city stays in touch with EPA through this process and beyond to make sure the facility is safe for future generations to come if the EPA gives the green light.