HAMPDEN, Maine — Potential for odor and increased truck traffic were top concerns raised during a public hearing Wednesday on plans for a proposed $69 million waste-to-energy plant.
The Municipal Review Committee and its Maryland-based partner, Fiberight LLC, are proposing to build a 144,000-square-foot waste processing facility with an attached 9,800-square-foot administration building. The facility would be accessed by a new road to be built off Coldbrook Road, according to Dean Bennett, Hampden’s community development director.
At the plant, Fiberight plans to use technology that will change organic materials in trash into biogas after the glass, metal, paper and plastic are recycled. Biogas is similar to natural gas.
While the project is subject to state and federal approval, it also needs town approval to move forward. A decision was not made Wednesday. The planning board will continue its review during its next meeting, set for May 11.
Most of the eight people who spoke Wednesday were concerned about odor and traffic. That’s likely because of Hampden’s rocky experience with solid waste.
The town once was the final destination for the region’s trash. The former Pine Tree Landfill operated for 35 years before it stopped accepting waste in June 2010.
Neighbors complained about the landfill’s stench, trash fires, damage to the environment and heavy truck traffic, among other things.
“I am not in favor of this project at all,” resident Mark Robson said. He said he and his wife nearly bought property in Plymouth but opted not to after experiencing the stench from a nearby property on which sewage was dumped.
“I don’t want that to happen to us,” he said. He also said the town should require all trash trucks to use Interstate 95.
Kathy Walker of Hampden recommended that blinking caution lights be installed at all primary entrances from points south, north and west. She also wasn’t a fan of the project.
“I wish Hampden could stop being the garbage capital of Maine,” she said.
To combat odor, representatives of the MRC, Brewer engineering firm CES Inc. and others with the project said trash would be unloaded inside the plant, which would be equipped with scrubbers that remove odor-causing components.
In addition, they said, the plant would hold two days of waste before it is processed. No waste will be stored outside.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection also is requiring daily odor inspections for at least the first six months of operation.
With regard to traffic, the facility is expected to generate about 89 new truck trips a day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. While most of those trucks are expected via highways, some may use US Route 1A, Route 7 and Route 69, which the town does not prefer.
The MRC, a nonprofit representing the trash disposal needs of 187 Maine cities and towns, and Fiberight entered a partnership after a three-year search for companies to handle the trash load after MRC’s contract with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corp. expires in 2018.
Critics have questioned the technology Fiberight is proposing, arguing it’s untested in the United States.
Fiberight says that while there’s only one other operational facility similar to this in the U.S. — in Virginia — they’re commonplace and successful in Europe.