A conveyer belt at the Coastal Resources of Maine facility in Hampden is shown in this August 2019 file photo. The plant has been idled since May. Three groups have offered to buy the plant. Credit: Sam Schipani / BDN

Three groups have offered to buy and restart the shuttered Hampden waste plant, according to the organization representing 115 communities that sent their trash to the facility before it closed last spring.

On Wednesday, the Municipal Review Committee announced that three potential investors have made formal offers on the $90 million Coastal Resources of Maine plant, including one that would operate the plant on its own and two that would hire outside contractors to run it.

The MRC has not yet reviewed the three final proposals, according to executive director Michael Carroll. It also has not publicly identified any of the groups that have made offers.

The Hampden plant closed its doors at the end of May after running out of operating funds and failing to secure a $14.7 million loan from the bondholders who have a $52 million stake in the facility. It owes millions in additional debts to contractors that helped run the plant and to the MRC, and a court-appointed receiver is now overseeing its idled operations.

Seven groups initially expressed interest in buying the shuttered Hampden plant. That number has now narrowed down to the three after the receiver sent out two questionnaires and sought their final offers by Sept. 11, Carroll said during a remote town hall meeting on Wednesday.

The receiver has now passed along those final offers to a trustee for the plant’s bondholders, and the MRC expects to start discussing them with the trustee and receiver over the next week. That review could last through October, with a possible closing in December, Carroll said. He added that timeline “might be a little aggressive.”

The Hampden plant is now co-owned by the company that developed its technology, Fiberight, and the private equity firm UltraCapital. The May closure came after the plant ran into a number of challenges during its development, opening and startup, including new recycling restrictions from China, a delay in its permitting to sell off fuel and cellulose products derived from household trash and extra costs to landfill waste.

The MRC has expressed frustration that Fiberight did not recruit a local manager who could handle the plant’s startup problems as they arose. As it evaluates potential buyers, it has stressed the importance of having such a figure running the facility on the ground.

While the plant normally diverted trash to landfills in Norridgewock and Old Town when it was down, MRC communities are now sending three-quarters of their trash to the waste-to-energy incinerator in Orrington where they had previously sent it for many years.