Robert Van Naarden, center, CEO of Delta Thermo Energy, is seated at a borough council meeting in Muncy, Pennsylvania in 2016. Delta Thermo Energy was proposing a waste-to-energy facility in the area at the time. The Pennsylvania company is now in negotiations to purchase the waste plant in Hampden that has been closed since May 2020. Credit: Courtesy of Williamsport Sun-Gazette

The CEO of a Pennsylvania company preparing to purchase a shuttered waste plant in Hampden again appeared to mischaracterize his company’s past work as well as its patented technology, marking the latest set of misstatements from the man promising to restart the trash plant that’s been closed almost a year.

Delta Thermo Energy CEO Rob Van Naarden said in a public meeting this week that his company owned and ran waste processing plants near Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. But no records about an operation in or near Williamsport exist, and the Atlantic City operation was a small-scale pilot project to test the company’s technology at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority, a public agency. That ended in 2013.

In addition, Van Naarden said his company’s technology doesn’t involve burning trash to create electricity, even though the process Delta Thermo lists on its website involves mixing wastewater sludge with household trash and burning the mixture to produce electricity. 

Delta Thermo is negotiating to purchase the Coastal Resources of Maine plant formerly operated by Fiberight by the end of June, a purchase that will affect how 115 Maine towns and cities get rid of their waste. Van Naarden spoke to members of the Municipal Review Committee, the group that represents those towns and cities, on Wednesday.

In addition to misstatements about its experience in the waste industry, Delta Thermo has listed technical advisers on its website without their knowledge or permission and claimed to have developed a waste processing plant in Shari, Japan. An official from Delta Thermo’s listed partner in Shari, Hokuto Kogyo, said Delta Thermo was not involved in the company’s Japanese operations. 

And on Wednesday, Van Naarden also misstated how long the company ran its New Jersey demonstration project.

He said Delta Thermo operated the project for about three years, though Atlantic County Utilities Authority senior analyst Greg Seher said in March that Delta Thermo only operated there from 2012 to 2013.

Delta Thermo officials came in a couple of days a week to conduct tests on the waste-to-fuel part of their patented technology, Seher said. 

Seher described Delta Thermo’s test project as successful and said the authority would be happy to work with the company again.

Little information is available for Delta Thermo’s operation in the Williamsport area. Van Naarden on Wednesday alternately described it as the company’s “plant” and “facility,” but has previously said it was another demonstration project. He said that the plant uses the company’s hydrothermal decomposition technology, but declined to reveal the volume of waste the location handled.

There is a permit trail for Delta Thermo’s test operations in New Jersey, but not for any Delta Thermo operations in or near Williamsport. The only permits the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has issued to Delta Thermo are for a waste-to-energy facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania, that was never built, according to the state agency’s comprehensive permit database. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, Van Naarden said Delta Thermo owns and operates the New Jersey and Williamsport, Pennsylvania, plants. 

Bangor City Manager Cathy Conlow, a Municipal Review Committee board member, said she was confused by that remark and asked for clarification about Delta Thermo’s current operations. 

Delta Thermo is only currently operating in Pennsylvania, Van Naarden said, but it would like to return to its former New Jersey location.

As for the company’s technology, Van Naarden said Wednesday, “There is going to be no burning of anything today, tomorrow, in the future. That’s not what we do. The concept of incineration or burning something to create electricity? Yes, it can be done. We’re not — we don’t do that.”

The company’s process creates pulverized fuel, not electricity, he said.

But the process Delta Thermo lists on its website and describes in its patent involves mixing wastewater sludge with household trash and burning the mixture to create electricity. 

Van Naarden has said he hopes to bring some of the company’s technology to the Coastal Resources plant in the future, though Municipal Review Committee officials have said those changes would require new permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. 

Asked about a Bangor Daily News article in April that revealed Delta Thermo had listed advisers on its website without their permission and potentially mischaracterized its overseas work, Van Naarden appeared to be unaware, asking “what’s this?” 

Karen Fussell, Brewer’s finance director and president of the Municipal Review Committee board, said “we have no comment,” and that she didn’t know what the questioner was referring to.