- Firefighters and a local hazardous materials response unit were called to a Covanta facility in Myerstown, PA on June 26 in response to an orange smoke cloud coming from the building, as reported by the Lebanon Daily News.
- Local employees and some area residents were evacuated for about six hours as a precaution according to ABC27 News. Two response workers were treated at a local hospital for minor injuries related to burning sensations in their hands.
- In a statement released to local publications, Covanta praised the work of first responders and offered the following update. "Earlier today we had an unexpected gaseous reaction that led to a small fire when processing non-hazardous waste materials in our solidification pit. As a precaution, employees and neighbors were temporarily evacuated from the area. The reacting waste has been extinguished and employees and neighbors have since been cleared to re-enter the area. There is no danger to the public."
Investigators from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection arrived the following day and are working with Covanta to identify the root cause. This particular Covanta facility accepts a range of "non-conforming or problematic waste loads" beyond typical solid waste, so the list of potential sources is wider than in traditional municipal solid waste facilities.
This incident follows fires at two Covanta waste-to-energy facilities in Maryland and Virginia earlier this year. The Virginia fire kept Covanta's Fairfax facility offline for multiple months, though the company has said it will have minimal effects on annual earnings for 2017. Earlier this month, an improperly installed door gasket also led to a release of lime at the company's new facility in Ireland. None of these incidents resulted in major injuries or public health risks.
The Myerstown facility, formerly operated by Waste Recovery Solutions, was purchased to expand Covanta's Environmental Solutions portfolio more than a year ago. The operation is permitted to take loads with completed profile forms and intended to divert materials that aren't suitable for waste-to-energy facilities so the remainder can be processed into a "blended acceptable state." Covanta has been increasing its focus on this special waste sector recently, with projections for double-digit growth. In May, CEO Stephen Jones told Waste Dive that small acquisitions in the space have been done strategically to line up with existing WTE capacity in the east and opportunities are now being considered in other regions.