Resident claims new landfill proposed for ‘path of least resistance’ at heated Alton meeting

Argyle resident Tom Varney asks members of the Municipal Review Committee if the group has considered using the shuttered Millinocket paper mill as a site for a future trash facility for the group's 187 member communities instead of Argyle or Greenbush.
Nok-Noi Ricker | BDN
Argyle resident Tom Varney asks members of the Municipal Review Committee if the group has considered using the shuttered Millinocket paper mill as a site for a future trash facility for the group's 187 member communities instead of Argyle or Greenbush. Buy Photo
Posted May 21, 2014, at 11:01 p.m.

ALTON, Maine — Protecting the environment, waterways and wildlife that live in and around two areas in Argyle and Greenbush selected as possible landfill sites for a future integrated solid waste and recycling facility run by the Municipal Review Committee was stressed again and again at an informational meeting Wednesday.

The meeting was at times slightly hostile, with some in attendance yelling, “I don’t believe you!” “Just answer the question!” and “Liar!” at members of the committee’s board, which hosted the meeting to educate residents about the group’s plans to build a facility to handle household trash from its 187 member communities.

Peter Crockett of Argyle, who owns Argyle Iron Works, took the microphone first and said there are three endangered species of fish living in waterways near the selected site.

The boisterous welder and artist got the crowd going when he suggested that Argyle, which is a township of about 277, according to the 2010 Census, and Greenbush were chosen by the group because they lack strong municipal town governments.

“It’s the path of least resistance,” he said, getting strong vocal agreement from many in the crowd gathered at Happy Acres Hall in Alton.

Municipal Review Committee leaders have submitted an application for a public benefit determination by the Maine DEP for a solid waste facility with a landfill on about 500 acres in Greenbush, or approximately 700 acres in Argyle.

While nothing is set in stone, the planned facility may incorporate a zero-sort recycling facility to gather glass, metals, papers and plastics into bales that are sold on the commodities market. It also would include a plant that takes organic materials and changes them into pulp to be distilled into ethanol and other processed fuels such as fibrous pellets that could be sold for heating, according to Greg Lounder, executive director of the committee.

Other members of the crowd asked if options such as using the shuttered paper mills in the Millinocket area have been considered, why the facility is needed, how the group planned to pay for the investment and protect the environment, and if out-of-state trash would be allowed.

Lounder explained that a contract between the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. waste-to-energy plant in Orrington, where the group’s trash now goes, and Emera Maine is about to expire in 2018.

The plant is getting about 12 cents a kilowatt-hour for the electricity it makes by burning trash.

“What happens in 2018 is that agreement goes away and the electricity must be sold on the open market,” Lounder said. “The price right now is 4 cents a kilowatt-hour.”

That means costs at PERC will rise, he said, adding the Municipal Review Committee is part owner of the PERC plant and knows what the books look like.

There are several options on the table, including retrofitting the PERC plant, but Lounder stressed that no out-of-state waste would be allowed at the proposed facility.

The state is looking for additional information on the application, according to a Monday letter sent to the committee by Karen Knuuti of the Maine DEP.

The letter asks the group to address 10 items and also states a 90-day extension, which would extend the processing time to Sept. 2, is needed.

Penobscot Indian Nation tribal member Maria Girouard said the sites the group has chosen for the landfill do not fit with the rural area and its residents.

“I don’t think there is anything you can say to us that will convince us this is a good idea,” she said. “This isn’t the place. We don’t want it. It endangers the water and it doesn’t compute with our way of life.”

 

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