News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, December 6, 2018
Towns continue exploring waste disposal options

by Anne Berleant

Selectmen from two of three peninsula towns exploring waste disposal options met with Penobscot Energy Recovery Company plant manager Henry Lang on November 29.

Brooklin, Sedgwick and Brooksville are eying the possibility of starting their own transfer station instead of contracting with the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station. The reason is potential cost savings, and was prompted after a spring meeting of the Solid Waste Committee, the transfer station’s governing board comprising selectmen from Blue Hill and Surry.

“Coming out of that meeting, we were encouraged to take a look at what our future looked like,” Sedgwick Selectman Ben Astbury said.

In 2016, the Solid Waste Committee signed a 15-year contract with the Municipal Review Committee, which had chosen to partner with Fiberight over PERC at the end of its contract with PERC in April 2018. Fiberight is building a waste-to-biofuel facility in Hampden, but its projected April 2018 start date has been delayed several times, with April 2019 the latest date given to begin operations.

“The uncertainty associated with the Hampden [facility] is a heavy burden,” Astbury said.

Brooklin Selectman Bill Cohen outlined three main concerns of a new transfer station contracting with PERC: the “financials” of the company, the effect on local commercial haulers, and what materials are accepted at PERC.

“Our folks can take anything to Blue Hill-Surry,” Cohen said.

Lang said PERC, which has had equipment upgrades that allow it to process larger items than before and landfill less, is in good financial shape. It has contracts with 30 municipalities and two commercial haulers, including Casella Waste.

But PERC does not accept unsorted demolition debris, Sheetrock, aggregate, bricks, concrete, materials containing asbestos, liquid wastes or sludges, TVs or monitors, or discarded white goods, while the Blue Hill-Surry station does, charging a set price for white goods and $120 per ton for demolition materials.

PERC tipping fees are $75 per ton, at the gate or through a 10- or 15-year contract, with the fee subject to consumer price index changes. Lang said PERC was able to lower fees because of its equipment upgrades. Fiberight will charge about $70 per ton.

In a quick, unofficial cost estimation based on town populations, the 4,000 annual tonnage of waste at the Blue Hill-Surry Transfer Station, and how much Brooksville ($90,000), Brooklin ($90,000) and Sedgwick ($105,000) paid in 2018 to use it, Sedgwick Selectman Michael Sheahan said the three towns are paying about $110 per ton.

However, the potential $88,000 annual savings in tipping fees could easily be swallowed by operating costs of a new transfer station. In a visit to the new Orland transfer station, created when the town pulled out of its arrangement with the Bucksport station, selectmen were told operating costs were about $80,000, after start-up costs.

“So, it could be a wash,” Astbury said.

While Brooksville selectmen did not attend the meeting, Selectman John Gray said the town is still interested.

“I think it’s our responsibility to look into the best deal for the town, and this is worth looking into. Whether we do anything is another story,” he added.