Trash is cleared at the Graham Road Landfill in Brunswick. (Times Record File Photo)

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick officials estimate the closure of the Graham Road Landfill will cost up to $7.2 million — a jump from the $5 million projected in 2016, but significantly lower than the $9.5 million experts told the town to brace for in June.

The town awarded the closure construction project to Alton-based Sargent Corporation for $5.9 million, and Town Manager John Eldridge anticipates contracting with Portland’s Woodard and Curran for onsite inspection and materials testing, which could cost another $1.3 million.

The construction contract includes site preparation, grading of municipal solid waste, installing a geosynthetic final cover system including gas collection, planting vegetation, and other site work, all materials and equipment, services and construction.

Despite the high cost, Eldridge said most of the funding is already accounted for between the Graham Road Landfill account (which come from tipping fees and tax transfers) and the pay-per-bag or pay-as-you-throw trash program. 

Together, the $2.5 million landfill account and the $3.7 million from the blue bag program (with another $500,000 anticipated next year) will cover the construction and much of the inspection. 

With some estimates still to come, “it is possible that a portion may need to come from the general fund balance,” he said, but added that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will reimburse Brunswick 75% of the project costs. The timeline for receiving those funds is still up in the air. 

“While we don’t know when we would receive those, as reimbursements are made as funds become available to MDEP, that fact that we are eligible is a great relief,” Eldridge said in a memo to the council. 

Town officials have been preparing to close the 36-year-old landfill since 2016, but costs have nearly doubled since they started exploring the idea. 

Original estimates projected a roughly $5 million price tag, but with the rise of construction costs, in June, Woodard and Curran revised their estimates to about $9.5 million. 

Brunswick has had a pay-as-you-throw trash bag program since 2007, but doubled the cost of bags in 2018 in preparation for the expense. Neither the council nor the town staff has discussed any further price hikes at this time, Eldridge said. 

In 2017, the Forecaster reported that the town had nearly tripled its intake of trash to generate additional revenue. 

At the time, the landfill was projected to take in around 12,000 to 14,000 tons of trash a year, up from the 4,500 tons it used to average. 

According to a November 2019 closure update, the town again boosted its collection rates and took in more than 20,000 tons from July 2018 to August 2019. 

The landfill has a total capacity of 400,000 tons and Eldridge said Monday there is room for just 11,660 more tons, or 2.85% of the total space. 

Eldridge also announced this summer that officials plan to continue waste and recycling collection and disposal with Casella Waste Systems, and recently signed a one year contract with two optional one-year extensions. He said Tuesday that the town is still working for a long term solution.  

Once the Brunswick landfill closes, Casella will take garbage to the Pine Tree Waste transfer station in West Bath. 

Officials are also still figuring out what to do with the landfill once it is close, and are considering a processing facility. This would allow for the continued drop-off of materials that are not landfilled, like wood, metals, tires, and construction debris.. The processing facility would have limited hours of operations.

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