News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, April 5, 2018
Blue Hill opts against land fill, challenging MRC contract

by Anne Berleant

The Solid Waste Committee voted March 30 to continue to haul trash from the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station to Penobscot Energy Recovery Company, in violation of its contract with the Municipal Review Committee.

The MRC’s 30-year contract with PERC expired April 1, and a new 15-year contract with Fiberight is now in effect.

But the Fiberight facility is not yet built, and the contract between Blue Hill-Surry and MRC allows use of landfills as a stop-gap measure. For Blue Hill-Surry, trash would go to the Juniper Ridge facility in Alton.

In a March 15 memo to member towns, MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder said the new facility would not be “available April 1 or for an interim period of up to six months.”

“We were led to believe there wouldn’t be this kind of delay,” Blue Hill Selectman and committee member Jim Schatz said.

A request to MRC from the solid waste committee to continue using PERC until the Fiberight facility was operational was declined last week. The contract stipulates that Blue Hill will abide by its “bridge” arrangement, namely a landfill, Schatz said.

In light of the committee vote to bypass the MRC contract, Blue Hill town attorney Diane O’Connell will send a letter to MRC notifying them of the committee’s decision “to continue to send waste to PERC in light of the notice of lateness of notification and length of time before the plant is operational,” Schatz said, “hoping they’ll understand [that] landfilling this long is not in the best interest of our constituents.

“There may be ramifications,” he continued. “We will have to back off if the ramifications become too expensive.”

Selectmen from Blue Hill and Surry compose the solid waste committee and are authorized to make decisions on the transfer station.

This includes the 2016 committee vote to remain with MRC, after presentations from both PERC and MRC/Fiberight, based on Fiberight’s plan to build a new facility in Hampden, designed to maximize recycling and processing of waste into biofuels and other products. The 4-2 decision to stay with MRC came after lengthy discussion and an initial split vote.

MRC originally formed in 1991 as a nonprofit to work with PERC on behalf of the contracted sending towns to improve its waste-to-energy facility and economic performance.

Under the MRC contract that just ended with PERC, the transfer station paid $81.50 per ton of waste and received a $2 per ton rebate from MRC. PERC would now charge $84.36 a ton, Schatz said. The new contract with MRC/Fiberight specifies $70 per ton but Schatz said that may not include costs for hauling to a landfill.

No opening date for the new plant has been provided by MRC.

No increase in waste rates for towns

A proposed $850,000 budget to be voted on by the Blue Hill Surry Solid Waste Committee is up about $19,000 from 2017 but what contributing towns pay will not change, Schatz said.

While the cost-sharing formula, based on increases in population and houses, will still be calculated, any increases to towns will be paid for through money received from the state, which is refunding, over time, 75 percent of the cost of closing the local landfill in 2015.

The transfer station has received about $20,000 in cost reimbursement so far with another $170,000 still to be paid, Schatz said.

Five towns—Blue Hill, Brooksville, Brooklin, Sedgwick and Surry—contribute to the costs of operating the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station, with Blue Hill paying $189,019, Surry $110,410, Sedgwick $105,470, Brooksville $94,923 and Brooklin $88,192 in 2017.