Groundwork at the Fiberight plant in Hampden early this year. Construction of the foundation was expected to have been completed by the end of October. PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSAMINE POTTLE

Fiberight plant is on schedule



BAR HARBOR — Construction of a new waste disposal facility in Hampden is on schedule, according to the consortium of towns contracting to use it.

The 180-plus member towns of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) currently truck their refuse to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant in Orrington, where it is burned to generate electricity. Most of those have agreed to make the switch to the new plant, which will be operated by the Maryland-based private company Fiberight LLC.

Unseasonably warm weather helped construction this fall at the 144,000 square-foot Hampden facility, and the foundation was projected to be finished by the end of October. The MRC owns the 90-acre property and is essentially functioning as a landlord to Fiberight.

The facility is designed to capture and manage organic matter in the waste stream and convert it to biogas. The end product could be used for heat, electricity or transportation.

Bar Harbor’s Town Council voted unanimously in 2016 to join the 15-year contract with the MRC to use the Fiberight facility.

Originally, the Municipal Review Committee’s contract with PERC was set to expire at the end of 2018. This contract was shortened to expire in March 2018 after a contentious legal battle was settled last year.

PERC has been able to offer favorable tipping fees — the price of disposing garbage — because the state Public Utilities Commission required Emera to enter a power purchase agreement with PERC to purchase the power at four times the usual rate. That agreement expires in February, which prompted the MRC to look for a new facility.

The fee, had there not been a PUC agreement, would have been more than $110 per ton.

Tipping fees for PERC are $77 per ton for Bar Harbor, but revenue sharing within the MRC lowers them to $59, according to Reeves.

He said PERC had proposed a new $85-per-ton tipping fee, but that is easily beaten by Fiberight’s proposed $70 per ton. For Bar Harbor’s annual 5,400 tons of waste, the town saves around $80,000.

Fiberight officials said in 2016 that a share of its projected profits could be used to keep tipping fees low.

Under the agreement with Fiberight, MRC towns can send their municipal solid waste to a landfill in Norridgewock in the event of delays or problems with the new plant.

Trash is going to a new destination at the same time as a transition is underway at the collection point here — Bar Harbor is in the early stages of building a new transfer station facility and will be using a temporary transfer station during construction.

Reeves predicted transportation costs will be a little higher during the months the town is using the temporary transfer station because hauled waste from the temporary facility will be less compact and lighter. Transportation contractors, according to Reeves, prefer “heavier, more consistent” loads and can offer better rates.

Henry Lang, plant manager of PERC, said that some towns decided to break away from the MRC to remain with the facility. Lang said that there are about 30 towns pledging to dispose at PERC in 2018.

“We believe we will be in operation past 2018,” he said. “We think we can still be profitable.”

 

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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