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Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 14, 2014
Committee to start work on transfer station remodel

by Rich Hewitt

The joint Blue Hill-Surry Solid Waste Committee will begin construction at the transfer station even though the plans for an updated facility are not yet complete.

The committee plans to move ahead with the construction of a concrete demolition debris area that would allow the towns to convert the facility to a true transfer station and formally close the old landfill. Currently, the transfer station accepts demolition debris and buries it in the landfill. Once the landfill is closed, all those materials would be transported off site.

At a special meeting on Tuesday, August 12, the committee unanimously agreed to have Sarah Nichols, the technical manager with Woodard and Curran who has been developing the plans for transfer station, prepare the technical specifications needed to put the demo debris project out to bid. Chairman Bill Matlock said the committee could review those specifications at its next regular meeting later this month and vote then to send the project out to bid.

Officials from the two towns have known for years that the landfill would have to be closed at some point. The project got a jump start recently when the state offered to cover 75 percent of the closing costs if the landfill ceases operations by December 2015.

The decision to develop the specifications came as the committee reviewed revised draft plans for the transfer station. Committee members met at the site recently, and the revised plans reflect changes that they had suggested, according to Nichols.

Matlock noted that there was some advantage to building the demolition debris pad this fall while the full project was still in the planning stages.

“We can build the pad now and play with things until the spring and see what works,” he said.

With the pad in place, he said, they can develop the rest of the plan and present it to the Department of Environmental Protection with the official closing plan for the landfill.

Blue Hill Selectman John Bannister stressed that there was a difference between not using the landfill and closing it. He reminded the committee members that it has been cheaper to use the landfill than to transport demolition debris off site and suggested that they could continue to dispose of those materials in the landfill until it is formally closed and covered.

“Every spoonful we put up there saves us money,” he said.

There will need to be some adjustments to operations once they begin using the new concrete pad for demolition debris and the crew at the transfer station will have to monitor things more closely. Matlock said that they will need to watch the weight and to make sure they are charging people correctly. The transfer station currently charges by volume for disposal of demo debris, but when they start transporting it off site, the towns will be charged by weight. There may be some guesswork involved in making the conversion, he said, adding that once the scales are installed, there won’t be that problem.

Referring to the new plans, Nichols said she had made some adjustments to the traffic flow in response to concerns raised by the committee after the site visit. But, she said there were no major changes to the plans at this point. She noted, however, that the plans did not include a burn pile.

The problem is that the burn pile requires a 50-foot radius around it, and Nichols said it has been difficult to find space for it on the site.

“We’ve been trying to squeeze it in, but it was making everything else not workable,” she said.

The alternative to a burn pile is chipping the wood materials, which also requires storage space and adds costs for transporting chips off site.

In other action, the committee wrestled with how or if to respond to a request for support from the Municipal Review Committee, the entity that represents 187 towns in Maine with their discussions with the PERC trash-to-energy plant in Orrington. The MRC has proposed creating a landfill and recycling center as a possible replacement for the PERC plant once existing contracts expire in 2018.

Bannister urged the committee to support the project, noting that if the plant closes at the end of 2018, the towns will have nowhere to send their trash. He indicated that support was needed soon, since the MRC was meeting with state officials who are reviewing the plans.

Other members, however, were hesitant to commit their support without having more information. The members had just received a packet of information including a three-year-old letter that seemed to contradict proposals that were currently under discussion at PERC.

Matlock argued that the towns needed more information about the current intentions of MRC and how and if they plan to use the existing power generating facility. He urged committee members to read the packet of information carefully and to be ready to discuss it at the next session. The committee will try to get Greg Lounder, executive director at MRC, to attend that meeting to answer questions.