A new $69 million waste-to-energy facility in Hampden will be operational by April 1, 2018, according to the groups partnered to operate it.

A newsletter released by the Municipal Review Committee said that Sargent Corp., a construction firm based in Old Town, began clearing, grubbing and other earthwork at the site on July 5 with foundation construction expected to begin by late summer or early fall. Construction of the building is expected to begin in mid fall or early winter, and on April 1 the facility will be accepting waste.

The MRC is a nonprofit organization that represents 187 municipalities in Maine that send their solid waste to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corp. The contract between the MRC and PERC ends in 2018. After that, MRC and its municipal members have agreed to send waste to the Hampden plant run by Fiberight. Fiberight plans to separate recyclables from organic waste, then convert the organics into biofuels.

MRC and Fiberight became partners to build the Hampden facility at the end of 2015. MRC has said in the past this will be a more affordable alternative to what PERC will charge in tipping fees in a new contract.

Of the 86 equity charter municipalities that are members of MRC, 36 had sold their municipal interests in PERC, securing their share of sale proceeds. Communities that don’t exercise that option by Dec. 15 will be subject to PERC’s exercise of its call option, which may result in a different price. These communities will have to negotiate with PERC on retaining shares or reaching terms of a sale of their interests with PERC.

Once built, the 144,000-square-foot plant will convert trash from more than 115 communities that belong to MRC into biogas, a fuel made from the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

The newsletter states that MRC, Fiberight, the town of Hampden, Sargent Corp., and CES, the Brewer-based engineering firm involved in the planning, had developed a timeline, which the newsletter called “realistic and still shows the Fiberight facility opening by April 1, 2018, despite the many setbacks and hurdles we have had to overcome.”

A construction team is meeting with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection bi-weekly to make sure all requirements of licenses are met. The project received DEP approval on June 30 to begin earth work.

The Maryland-based Fiberight applied for a bond from the Finance Authority of Maine, and in April was approved for tax-free debt financing of $45 million.

“While we expect that it will take time over the course of 2018 to achieve full processing capacity, we are pleased that the facility is on track to accept and process (municipal solid waste) from Joining Members beginning April 1, 2018, at the $70 per ton tip fee,” the newsletter said.

The MRC finance committee will meet at 9 a.m. on July 26 at the Orono Municipal Building on 59 Main St., which will be followed by a board of directors’ meeting at 10 a.m.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis