About a month after the Municipal Review Committee announced the new Fiberight waste processing facility wouldn’t be ready by its April deadline — temporarily pushing waste from 115 communities to landfills — company officials say they want member communities to trust that they aren’t going anywhere.
Fiberight CEO Craig Stuart-Paul and colleagues held what they described as the “first in a series” of town hall meetings on Tuesday at the Bangor Public Library to talk about the delays in constructing the Hampden waste processing facility.
“It will work,” Stuart-Paul said of the unfinished waste-to-biofuel facility, which will eventually process solid waste from 115 municipalities. “We will prove it to you.”
In the last month, the 144,000-square-foot facility off Cold Brook Road in Hampden has been “substantially completed,” Stuart-Paul said, adding the company “absolutely tried” to get the facility operational by April 1.
Only half a dozen people attended Tuesday’s meeting, but Stuart-Paul said the plan is to host the meetings monthly until the project is complete, which likely won’t be until December. The recycling portion of the facility, however, should be running by September, he said.
More than 100 MRC communities chose two years ago to partner with Fiberight and build a new facility capable of processing up to 180,000 tons of waste a year through recycling and anaerobic digestion, which turns organic material into biofuel. In January, Maryland-based Fiberight secured $70 million in funding to complete the project in time to open in the spring.
On March 31, the MRC communities from central, northern and Down East Maine ended their long-term contracts with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. MRC started a new contract with Fiberight the following day, anticipating that the waste-to-biofuel facility would be finished.
But on April 1, the new structure was still incomplete. Stuart-Paul cited winter weather, specifically wind, as cause for the delay, as well as the time it took to iron out the appeal that its competitor, PERC, brought against the company.
Having to rely on a backup plan, MRC received temporary approval to landfill tens of thousands of tons of municipal waste until the facility is finished — a decision that runs counter to its stated goal, which is to divert as much of its wastestream as possible from landfills, MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder said at the time.
To avoid sending waste to landfills, some communities, including Blue Hill, have since chosen to violate contractual agreements with MRC and process their waste at PERC, until Fiberight is finished.
“Why is it being landfilled?” Blue Hill Selectboard member Ellen Best, disgruntled, asked Stuart-Paul Tuesday night.
“You cannot not dispose of waste,” Stuart-Paul responded, adding that landfilling waste is not what the company wants, but there was not another interim option.
Fiberight Community Services Director Shelby Wright agreed: “No one wants to landfill waste,” she said.
In the coming months Stuart-Paul said he hopes to be able to convince frustrated MRC community members that choosing Fiberight was a good idea.
“We want to work with you, [and] we want you to be our friends,” he said. “We’ve proven we can get the financing … and we will prove to you we can complete the project.”
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