AUGUSTA — A proposal to turn trash into diesel fuel at Hatch Hill landfill got a warm, if wary, reception from city councilors Thursday.

City officials are in discussions with a new firm that proposes to build a $20 million plant at Hatch Hill to convert trash into diesel fuel using technology developed by a Texas-based waste-to-energy company.

Councilors expressed interest in the proposal, but said they will need assurances the technology, and newly-formed company touting it, are both legitimate and wont leave the city with a physical, or financial, mess to clean up if it fails.

“It’s a great concept, but I want to make sure you’ll still be here in 20 years, or five years,” said City Councilor Michael Byron.

Ed Crofton, vice president of Eastern Green Energy, acknowledged the company is new — Augusta would be its first such plant — but said the technology is proven, and produces very little, or no, emissions.

He said the first similar, large scale plant went online in 2007 in Korea, but the basic technology has existed since 1958.

“As long as you can deliver trash, we can make fuel,” Crofton said.

The proposal could double the remaining life span of Hatch Hill by diverting half of the waste it receives to the proposed, on-site diesel-producing plant, officials say.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the firm came to Augusta with a proposal to lease space at Hatch Hill for 20 years, where it would build a plant capable of converting 41 tons of trash per day into liquid fuel with one machine, and twice that if its plan to add a second machine occurs.

Bridgeo said the city would pledge to divert about half the garbage the city takes in and pay the firm, for taking in that waste, the same rate the city charges users of Hatch Hill.

The income from leasing space at Hatch Hill for the plant would offset the lost revenues from tipping fees that would be diverted to the company, Bridgeo said, allowing the city to break even or better, in the deal.

“What we’re putting at risk is two acres of land we already own on the Hatch Hill campus, with the company responsible for permitting through DEP and anybody else, and installation costs,” Bridgeo said. “Our only obligation is to start delivering about half the trash we already take out there, with the other half continuing to go to the traditional landfill.”

The process, according to Eastern Green Energy, would include sorting, crushing and dehydrating the waste and, with proprietary technology, converting it into gas, purifying it, and converting it into ready-to-use fuel. At full production, the operation could employ up to 16 people.

The plant would take in both trash that now goes in the landfill and recyclable items currently collected and recycled off-site.

“It’s not that we’re not going to be recycling anymore, we’d just be doing the recycling ourselves,” said Councilor David Rollins.

However Ralph St. Pierre, assistant city manager and finance director, warned that some residents won’t consider the process to be true recycling, and would consider the move a step back in recycling.

The process would take nearly everything, other than metal, glass, and ceramic materials, which the company would sort out.

The landfill takes waste from residents and businesses in Augusta as well as eight surrounding communities: Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Pittston, Randolph and Whitefield.

The landfill is projected to last 15 years before its current layout will be full. Bridgeo said the proposed waste-to-energy plant could double its remaining life span.

Bridgeo said the fuel produced would belong to the company.

Crofton said the company would likely seek another firm, such as Irving or Citgo, to buy the diesel the plant produces.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

 


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