ELLSWORTH — Members of the nonprofit Municipal Review Committee (MRC), among them 14 municipalities in Hancock and Washington counties, have a problem: Where to dispose of their waste?
The plan had been to ship municipal waste to the Fiberight facility under construction in Hampden. But that plant is not yet ready to go live. So the MRC worked out an interim arrangement to use a landfill in Old Town.
“Because of the waste swap agreement signed earlier this year, there are limits on how much the Juniper Ridge Landfill can accept,” said Karen Fussell, vice president of the MRC’s Board of Directors.
Operators of the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town notified the MRC on Aug. 13 that, effective Oct. 7, the landfill would no longer accept waste from MRC towns. This is due to the facility reaching its licensed limit of 81,800 tons per year of “non-bypass” (non-recyclable) MRC waste.
The waste swap agreement is the result of delays in the opening of the Fiberight plant. That facility was originally scheduled to open on April 1 of this year. When that opening date was delayed until the fall, MRC member towns began temporarily sending waste to landfills, including Juniper Ridge, which is run by a subsidiary of Casella Waste Systems.
MRC staff and board members met on Aug. 22 to discuss options for the fall.
“Right now there is some disagreement over how the agreement is being interpreted,” Fussell said. “Casella was working under the impression that the licensed limit was for a calendar year, not from when the waste swap agreement was signed in March.
“We’re working with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to see what our options might be, and working on some alternate arrangements with Casella.”
The Fiberight facility is expected to begin receiving waste after September and become fully operational by 2019, although representatives from the facility were not able to give specific dates for when that would occur.
The MRC is expected to hold another meeting in September to discuss solutions to the temporary waste disposal shortfall.