August 26, 2019
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Local waste coalition could grant its communities permission to send trash to PERC

Bridget Brown | File
Bridget Brown | File
Municipal waste is being moved toward the PERC power generation system in this file photo.

The Municipal Review Committee might temporarily allow its more than 100 member communities to send their waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Center rather than have it landfilled.

The MRC Board of Directors is slated to discuss and possibly vote on an agreement at its May 31 meeting that would allow its central, northern and Down East communities a temporary waiver to send their waste to PERC, rather than the Crossroads Landfill in Norridgewock. MRC communities have been sending their waste to Crossroads and the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town since April 1 as a last resort, once it became clear the waste-to-biofuel Fiberight facility in Hampden was months behind its construction schedule.

In 2016, MRC agreed to end its contract with Orrington-based PERC to work with competitor Fiberight and build a new waste processing plant off Cold Brook Road in Hampden. Construction began in July and MRC ended its contract with PERC on March 31, expecting the Fiberight plant to be operational on April 1, but it wasn’t.

For the next six months, or until the Fiberight plant is ready to process waste, MRC communities are contractually obligated to landfill their trash — a provision that five coastal communities opted to violate late last month, in order to send their waste to PERC. At first, MRC said communities who violate the contract could face “significant legal liability,” but officials from those towns, as well as MRC Executive Director Greg Lounder, have since said the two parties are working together toward an agreeable conclusion.

In Friday’s announcement, MRC explained that the temporary agreement would be in exchange for a waiver fee and would not be considered contractual violations.

“Joining members would be granted a limited waiver from the exclusivity provisions of the Crossroads agreement to allow for interim delivery of [waste] to PERC and to provide assurance that such deliveries would not constitute a default under the Crossroads agreement,” according to the meeting agenda.

On Friday, PERC spokesman Ted O’Meara said the two groups are still in talks about logistics, such as the length of the agreement.

Generally, though, PERC “is serious about taking waste, reducing it and creating a usable product out of it. Any time PERC can enable that, it’s certainly willing to. It obviously is a far better solution for the environment than simply dumping it on the ground in a landfill,” O’Meara said.

PERC, which has been operational since the late 1980s, converts waste to electricity at its plant in Orrington. About a week after PERC lost the MRC contract, it laid off 20 percent of its workforce.

Lounder did not immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment.

MRC communities collectively produce upwards of 100,000 tons of trash each year, Lounder previously told the BDN. The Fiberight plant will have the capacity to convert waste to biofuel, though its completion has been doubted by MRC community residents. The company is holding informational town-hall style meetings once a month to keep the public apprised.

In a May newsletter, Fiberight announced that the 144,000-square-foot building was “substantially completed,” and its contractors had begun pouring the concrete floor. In the next two months, the equipment will to be sent to the site, and the sprinkler and odor control systems will be installed.

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