WESTBROOK – Construction on the new Westbrook trash transfer station, open more than a month, is unfinished.

Casella Waste Systems opened the facility, located off County Road, at the beginning of the year, but a tight deadline and unforeseen problems pushed back the full completion of the site.

“We’re open for business and it’s going real well, but we didn’t get all the construction finished before we opened,” said Stuart Axelrod, market area manager for Casella/Pine Tree Waste.

At the end of 2012, Casella Waste Systems ceased all trash processing operations at the controversial Maine Energy Recovery Co. plant in downtown Biddeford. With a plan for the new Westbrook transfer station to open by Dec. 31, Casella sold the nearly 30-year-old waste-to-energy facility to the city of Biddeford on Nov. 30 for $6.65 million.

For now, said Axelrod, the Westbrook station is capable of handling a few tons of waste from Westbrook and other communities each week, along with loads from third parties like construction companies. The waste is now being taken from Westbrook to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. facility in Orrington.

The original plan was to have the waste moved to the state-owned Juniper Ridge landfill in Old Town, but, Axelrod said, the potential to process the waste at Juniper Ridge is stalled until a Department of Environmental Protection hearing in April, and Casella had a long-term agreement to honor with PERC. That agreement ends in 2018.

Casella’s goal when agreeing to sell Maine Energy to Biddeford was to get a license from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to bury municipal solid waste at the Juniper Ridge landfill.

Due to the high public interest in the proposal, Commissioner Patricia Aho said she would schedule a public hearing on the issue before her department takes up the license request from Casella.

Samantha Warren, director of communications for the Department of Environmental Protection, said Wednesday a pre-hearing for the public was held in January. The hearing on the disposal of additional waste at the Juniper Ridge landfill will be held on April 9 and 10 in Augusta, with public comment on the evening of April 9.

“Solid waste management is a critical issue in Maine. This is an initiative with a lot of interest,” said Warren. “It’s a very heated issue.”

Axelrod said that when the Juniper Ridge program is in place, “we will continue to support PERC and other partners.”

Casella also sends waste from the Westbrook transfer station to ecomaine, Mid Maine Waste Action Corp. and others.

Construction was not completed during the tight timeline due to weather problems, according to Axelrod.

Axelrod said when construction at the Westbrook site is finished in the spring, a new, separated area will allow residents to drop off waste directly, including electronic waste.

The construction delay centers on a barrier to separate the large commercial trash trucks from residents’ vehicles on the site.

“The No. 1 issue is being safe. It can be very difficult to mix homeowners with trucks,” he said.

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