January 2, 2013

MERC trash now tipping the scales in Westbrook

A Casella Waste facility is the new destination for rubbish once taken to the phased-out Biddeford incinerator.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Trucks that for years have dumped thousands of tons of southern Maine's trash at Maine Energy Recovery Co. in Biddeford will be sent to a new transfer station in Westbrook starting Thursday morning.

click image to enlarge

A waste-hauling truck stops at the scales of the new facility for Pine Tree Waste Services in Westbrook, seen her on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2012.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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The new facility is a key part of Casella Waste Systems' shutdown of its incinerator in Biddeford, where residents long clamored for the plant's closure because of the odor, pollution and truck traffic it created.

On Nov. 30, the city bought the 25-year-old incinerator, known as MERC, which stopped generating power Friday and took in its last loads of trash Monday, said Brian Oliver, regional vice president for Vermont-based Casella Waste Systems.

Now, much of the waste from the region will be dumped in Westbrook, then consolidated in larger trucks and hauled away for disposal. For now, the final stop for the trash will be the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington, Oliver said.

Casella's eventual plan is to bury trash at the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, but that's contingent on approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The facility in Westbrook is expected to take in about 123,000 tons of trash annually from 14 communities in southern Maine, including Sanford, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, and any waste from companies that need its hauling services, said Casella officials.

The transfer station, which received its occupancy permit from the city Wednesday, is allowed to take in as much as 1,000 tons of trash per day and generate as many as 199 truck trips -- 162 from trucks dropping off waste and 37 from tractor-trailers hauling it away for disposal, said Joe Fusco, vice president of Casella Waste Systems.

Waste from out of state -- MERC processed about 170,000 tons a year -- will be taken to facilities in other states, not Westbrook, said Oliver.

For the past couple of days, as construction of the Westbrook facility was finished, trash was taken to the Troiano Waste transfer station in South Portland and ecomaine's incinerator in Portland, Oliver said.

Casella has owned the site of the transfer station on County Road in Westbrook for more than 10 years. It originally proposed building a corporate office and a truck maintenance garage there.

Over the past decade, the plan was amended to include processing of construction and demolition debris and, later, a facility that would turn trash into fuel pellets to be burned at MERC.

The latest plan, approved in June, is for a 13,000-square-foot transfer station and a residential waste drop-off area, which Casella officials said would be finished in the spring.

None of the plans has generated much opposition from Westbrook residents, who have benefited from free curbside recycling among other perks negotiated with Casella.

The facility isn't expected to emanate odors because trash won't sit there for long. Only a partial tractor-trailer load will be allowed to remain on the site overnight, said City Engineer Eric Dudley.

Also, the site is in an industrial area on the city's outskirts, where few neighbors have cause for concern.

Tom Dunham, president of The Dunham Group, which owns a building on nearby Karen Drive, said he has no qualms about the transfer station.

"The city benefits significantly," he said, referring to the host-community agreement. "It's been a long time coming."

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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