HAMPDEN, Maine — Residents again raised concerns about potential odor and increased truck traffic during a public hearing Wednesday night conducted by the planning board as part of its review of Fiberight’s site plan application for a $69 million waste-to-energy facility proposed in the town.
Those were the two top concerns that were addressed when the public hearing and site plan review began on April 13, at which time it was continued to Wednesday. Because a decision has yet to be made, the work will continue on May 25.
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.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Mike Robson and Jim Hornbrook, both of whom live in the Main Trail neighborhood, were among several residents who raised concerns about odor.
Hornbrook, who also spoke at the last planning board meeting, said he has asthma and that odor from the plant would have an adverse effect on his health.
Noting that Maine is a large state, he said the plant should be built somewhere else, preferably farther away from residential areas.
“In my opinion, this is not the place for this kind of facility,” he said.
Not everyone was worried about odor. Hampden Mayor Dave Ryder told residents what he saw during a recent visit to Fiberight’s demonstration plant in Lawrenceville, Virginia.
During that visit, which he said occurred with little advance notice to Fiberight, Ryder detected no odor and no stray garbage. He also distributed a display of photos his wife took during the visit.
“I get more smell of trash when I go to the Hampden transfer station,” he said, later adding, “There was no odor of garbage. It’s the same process [as proposed for the Hampden plant]. It’s just a little smaller.”
With regard to traffic, planning board member J. Kelley Wiltbank said he didn’t want Hampden to be stuck with the label of “garbage capital” of this region of Maine. To that end, he asked if there was a way to keep trash haulers out of Hampden’s downtown area.
MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder said that the organization could encourage haulers to use certain routes but noted that trash hauling contracts are between individual municipalities and carriers.
While the applicants identified six routes that haulers likely would use to get to the proposed plant, Wiltbank noted that Odlin Road — which runs through a largely commercial area — was not among them.
If haulers could use Odlin Road, “the citizens of Hampden would not have to see a garbage truck and be reminded of what they don’t want to be reminded of.”
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.
To combat odor, representatives of the MRC, Brewer engineering firm CES Inc. and others with the project said last month that 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.
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 to use highways, some may use U.S. 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 Co. expires in 2018.
Critics have questioned the technology Fiberight is proposing, arguing it’s untested in the United States.
Fiberight says that while the Virginia facility is the only one operating in the U.S., such plants are commonplace and successful in Europe.