MMWAC wins right to take part in Casella waste hearing

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AUBURN — Operators of the Mid-Maine Waste Action Corp. incinerator will get a seat at the table beginning next month as the state decides what to do with trash that would have gone to Biddeford’s Maine Energy Recovery Co.

The Auburn-based incinerator operation was among nine organizations and individuals and three municipalities that were granted intervenor status as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection reviews an amendment to state trash-handling policy.

“We could, of course, give testimony. Any member of the public can,” said Joe Kazar, MMWAC executive director. “But this allows us to be a party to the pre-hearing conference and to provide expert testimony. But we can also help frame the issues.”

If the state approves, Casella Solid Waste would send household garbage that once went to the Biddeford incinerator to be buried at the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town, bypassing incinerators in Portland, Auburn and Orrington.

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Biddeford’s MERC took in 259,400 tons of solid waste in 2011 — 89,400 tons from Maine and roughly 170,000 tons from out of state, according to the application.

The MERC facility closed in December. Casella’s agreement to accept the out-of-state waste has ended, according to the application. The Maine-generated trash it once handled is being sent temporarily to a Casella-operated transfer station in Westbrook. From there, the trash is being sent to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. incinerator in Orrington.

The application centers on where that Maine-generated solid waste should go permanently.

The Maine Bureau of General Services, which owns the Old Town-based Juniper Ridge Landfill, filed the application with the DEP in September. The landfill is managed by Casella.

That’s a fundamental change to Maine’s trash-handling policy and philosophy, Kazar said.

“We hope we can frame the issue so that the state solid-waste hierarchy is considered,” Kazar said.

A state policy, called the Waste Management Hierarchy, would send municipal solid waste to landfills as a last resort. That policy urges residents to reduce what they throw away and to recycle and compost what they can. The rest should be burned in a waste-to-energy incinerator. Anything that can’t be burned and the resulting ash should be sent to a landfill, according to the policy.

Casella and Bureau of General Services lawyers submitted a brief earlier this month arguing to exclude MMWAC, ecomaine of Portland and two Maine residents from being intervenors.

“(But) the statutes are intended for organizations like ours to be able to intervene and help the process along,” Kazar said.

The cities of Biddeford, Saco and Old Town also were named intervenors, as were the operators of PERC and that facility’s Municipal Review Committee.

Other intervenors include ecomaine, Old Town Fuel and Fiber in Old Town and residents in Stillwater, Alton and Old Town.

They will join DEP officials and representatives from the state Bureau of General Services for a pre-hearing conference Jan. 30 in Augusta. The hearing is scheduled for April 9 and 10, with testimony from the public taken on April 9.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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