Lewis reports Fiberight’s future in doubt

Hampden biomass plant plagued by “management problems”
Mon, 06/15/2020 - 8:00am

In 2016, Boothbay Region Refuse Disposal District, as a member of the Municipal Review Committee, decided to end its 25-year relationship with Penobscot Energy Recovery Company and send the district’s trash to a new, state of the art biomass facility in Hampden. The MRC is a non-profit conglomeration of 115 Maine municipalities. It was charged with finding solid waste options for its membership. The MRC entered into a contract with Fiberight in Hampden to begin sending their collective municipal waste to the biomass plant in spring 2018.

But Fiberight has been plagued with numerous problems. For nearly two years, it could not receive refuse from members due to problems mainly from its inability to receive a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit. Those problems are over, but another one is still plaguing the new facility. On June 11,  BRRDD Manager Steve Lewis told district trustees during their monthly board meeting, the troubled facility’s future is in doubt. The biomass facility which turns trash into fuel is operational, but management problems threaten the plant’s future, according to Lewis’ report. “This time the problem is management,” he said. “The MRC sent Fiberight a default notice, and I don’t know what that means for their future.”

Lewis described Fiberight as “deeply in debt,” leaving it with the options of closing or selling the building. Under the agreement between Fiberifght and MRC, Fiberight owns the plant and MRC owns the land and infrastructure.

In other action, the trustees approved a new policy on delinquent accounts. If a customer is past due at either the transfer station or Giles Rubbish, they are no longer allowed to charge for services at either venue. Lewis requested the policy after dealing with an account $800 past due for the past year. “We sent him a certified letter. He is past due at Giles and I’m asking we not let him charge at the transfer station, either,” he said.

On July 4, the transfer station will be closed, but Giles Rubbish will keep at least one truck operational. The Independence Day holiday is on a Saturday this year which caused trustees to consider closing Giles Rubbish as well. Trustees decided to allow one truck to work the holiday at a pay rate 2.5 times higher than regular hours due to the holiday. Giles Rubbish is considered a service for local businesses which needed their trash picked up to prevent holding their garbage for two consecutive days.

Lewis also reported he is working to find a solution to the transfer station’s growing wood chip problem. The wood chip market shrank last year due to the Androscoggin Mill explosion in Jay. Lewis reported he is limited to one receiver placing a quota on wood chip shipments, and he’s also temporarily down a driver.  He assured trustees the wood chip problem would be temporary. “I know someone at Sappi in Skowhegan and I think that may become a solution,” he said.

It is also getting harder to dispose of shingles and glass products. Commercial Recycling Solutions in Scarborough recently raised its tipping fee to $117 per ton for glass and increased the price for shingles disposal from $72 to $80 per ton. “If we want to recycle, it’s going to cost more. It would be cheaper to send it all to the landfill, but that’s not the right thing to do for the environment,” he said. 

Trustees meet next at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 9.