BIDDEFORD – While the latest buzz about the fate of the Maine Energy Recovery Co. has faded, the incinerator that has caused so much discussion and controversy is still on residents’ minds.

Before long, the trash-burning plant in downtown Biddeford may be front and center again.

On Monday, the Saco City Council is expected to sign a resolution supporting the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s effort to create enforceable odor standards, specifically citing MERC as a persistent issue, said Mayor Ron Michaud.

And in Biddeford, the City Council will start discussing the city’s contract with the trash processor after the first of the year, said Mayor Joanne Twomey.

City Councilor Patricia Boston has requested a status update on the incinerator, owned by Vermont-based Casella Waste Systems Inc.

“We haven’t had any updates for some time,” Boston said Friday. “It is my understanding that the contract (with MERC) is up in 2012, and we need to start thinking about it and our strategy, to know what the approach is going to be.”

Twomey said she has her own ideas for the city’s negotiations with Maine Energy, which she plans to discuss with councilors once they start addressing contract negotiations.

Calls to John Casella, chairman, chief executive officer and secretary of Casella Waste, and James Bohlig, president of Casella Renewables Group, a division of Casella Waste, were not returned Friday.

In the fall of 2009, officials announced a proposal to move Maine Energy’s trash processing operation from the plant downtown to a site outside the city. The plan evolved out of negotiations between Casella and a task force that included state and local officials.

Twomey told The Portland Press Herald in January that Casella was considering moving its trash processing to property it owns in Westbrook. But Twomey, a longtime critic of the plant, withdrew her support for the proposal, contending that the task force had deviated from its original focus on buying and closing the incinerator.

After Twomey’s decision, the panel disbanded. There have been no formal, organized discussions of the plant’s performance or future since then, except for odor monitoring by the city’s environmental code enforcement officer, Twomey said.

The contract between Biddeford and Casella to accept the city’s trash expires June 30, 2012. Boston said that as the City Council starts discussing the contract, it will have to consider what to do with the city’s trash if the contract is not renewed.

“We can choose to bring waste somewhere else, but that doesn’t mean MERC leaves town,” she said. “But, if they do close, where do we dispose (of trash) and what kind of impact does that have?”

While neighboring Saco does not have a contract with Maine Energy for trash, the city is affected by the odor from the incinerator. Michaud, the mayor, said he has received complaints from residents who live as far from the plant as Ferry Road, which leads to the Camp Ellis area.

The Saco City Council is expected to sign the resolution Monday, asking the state to make standards no less stringent than they now are, Michaud said.

“From our perspective, as a community, we’re not part of their facility, we don’t bring our waste there. We would much prefer if they were gone, because it is a detriment to our downtown,” he said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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