Not All Worried About Wheelabrator
The Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. plant in Claremont, N.H., on September 28, 2007. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — Reaction was mixed yesterday among waste haulers and municipal officials to the planned closing of the Wheelabrator incinerator.
Wheelabrator announced Wednesday that it would shutter the Grissom Lane waste-to-energy plant at the end of September for financial reasons after 27 years of operation. The company said conditions in both the waste and energy markets, the relatively remote location of the plant and the lack of volume there all contributed to the decision to close.
“This is a huge issue, not a minor problem,” said Carla LaBounty of LaBounty Disposal Services in Lempster, N.H. “This affects everyone around here.”
Labounty said if the only alternative for her and other small haulers is the municipal landfill in West Lebanon, costs will rise.
“You can guarantee the price of disposal will increase significantly unless something else happens,” LaBounty said. “But we don’t even know if Lebanon can take everything that was going to the incinerator.”
Wheelabrator said the plant handled about 200 tons of garbage a day.
In Charlestown, Town Administrator Dave Edkins said the impact would not be significant for his town.
“We use the Claremont incinerator very little,” Edkins said. “We go to (the landfill) in Bethlehem because it is cheaper.”
Edkins said the town transports a large “rolloff” filled with trash from its transfer station about once a week. Despite the roughly three-hour trip to Bethlehem, versus about 20 minutes to the incinerator, the difference in fees is great enough to make the distance worthwhile.
Edkins said the fee at the incinerator, which the town only uses as a last resort, is more than $80 per ton while Bethlehem is $47.
Claremont’s Public Works Director Bruce Temple said yesterday his concern isn’t the contract the town has with Casella to take the trash from the transfer station but rather the loss of revenue for the water department when Wheelabrator closes.
The company uses a significant amount of water at the facility and City Manager Guy Santagate estimated its annual water bill exceeded $200,000.
“This does affect the ratepayers,” Temple said. “That bothers me. It is unfortunate and I’m very concerned with the loss of water revenue.”
Temple said he will be analyzing the numbers with Finance Director Mary Walter over the next few weeks.
As for trash, Temple said the city uses its own trucks for pick up at city owned properties such as the library, fire station, city hall and visitors center and takes the trash to the incinerator.
“I will have to look for a new location for disposal,” he said, unsure at this point which direction the city will go.
Jim Toher, marketing area manager for Casella Waste in White River Junction, said yesterday he does not see any immediate impact on the business or customer contracts from the incinerator closing.
“This is all brand new, but we will do our best to keep the status quo,” Toher said. “No reason to rock the boat, so I don’t see any major changes.”
Toher said Casella hauls trash from its sorting facility in Newport to its landfill in Bethlehem in 25-ton shipments.
Incinerator opponents, in their pending appeal of the proposed operating permit for the plant, not only wanted DES to revoke the permit and close the facility but also transition to a recovery and recycling based system for the county.
Katie Lajoie of Charlestown cited two studies, one done in 2007, that laid out a plan for such a system. It would rely on composting, recycling, reuse and a materials recovery facility.
Eighty percent of what is thrown away could be recycled or recovered, Lajoie said.
“We can be a model here in Sullivan County on how to do this and that is what I’ll be working toward,” Lajoie said.
LaBounty does not oppose recycling but said it is not cost effective.
“Recycling is very expensive, more expensive than getting rid of trash,” she said. “And you can’t recycle 100 percent so you will still have trash to haul.”