AUGUSTA — A Pittston trash hauler believes the city is being unfair by giving a discount on every ton of trash hauled to Hatch Hill landfill by a much larger area trash hauler, which he said is bringing in so much trash to the city-owned landfill it is shortening the length of time remaining before it will be full and have to close.

Augusta officials responded that the landfill is owned by the city and is run as a business, and it’s good business to give Riverside Disposal a discount to keep the large volume of trash, and revenue, it brings to Augusta coming.

Bill Black, owner of Maine Squeeze Trash Removal, complained to city councilors last week that Chelsea-based Riverside Disposal is paying less, per ton, to dispose of the trash it collects from customers. Black said that’s unfair, and also warned that Riverside is bringing so much trash, much of it from towns that don’t pay a fee for their residents to use the landfill, to the city-owned landfill that it is shortening the length of time remaining before it will be full.

He said Riverside brought 1,004 loads of trash to Hatch Hill in 2010 and 4,700 loads in 2018.

“That’s a lot of trash coming in from out of town filling up our landfill,” Black said. “Are you going to be comfortable when that landfill is closed and it’s turned into a transfer (station) and you have to pay three times as much to get rid of your trash?”

City officials said Riverside pays less per ton because of Hatch Hill’s tiered rate structure, created by policy in 2011, which provides discounted rates for commercial haulers who bring in a larger volume of trash.

Now, most trash that comes into Hatch Hill costs the hauler $77 a ton, up from $72 a ton last year. Haulers bringing in more than 9,000 tons a year are charged only $65 a ton, up from the previous $62 a ton. Riverside is the only hauler bringing in enough trash to get that discount, according to Public Works Director Lesley Jones, though a lower rate, $70 per ton, is available to haulers which bring in between 5,000 and 9,000 tons of trash a year.

Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo said the city gives a volume discount to help ensure it keeps large haulers like Riverside from leaving and taking their trash elsewhere, because the city relies on revenues from tipping fees to cover the costs of operating the landfill.

“The reason we do that is to ensure we have a sufficient amount of waste flow coming into the landfill, so we operate at a break-even basis as opposed to a deficit basis,” Bridgeo said. “We have a lot of fixed expenses with the operation of the landfill and if we don’t make sure we get a critical amount of volume then it ends up being a situation where the property taxpayers have to subsidize the operation. Riverside Disposal has been a good, strong customer of the city at Hatch Hill over the years. They bring a significant amount of waste into the landfill. And it was, frankly, to preserve them, where they had competitive opportunities to take their waste elsewhere back in 2011, that we did this.”

Several area towns, including Pittston, pay a per capita fee so their residents can take their trash to Hatch Hill, or have it hauled there by private haulers.

Black said Riverside takes trash from all over the state to Hatch Hill, including from communities which do not pay the per capita fee.

“There’s eight cities and towns that pay into that per capita landfill, and we have been for 30 years,” Black said. “So why is the trash being allowed to be brought in from all over the state?”

Jones said the city is aware some of the trash Riverside brings to Hatch Hill is not from member communities which pay the per capita fee.

“We are aware that Riverside and some of the other haulers do bring in some waste from out of town,” she said. “But we also know they have contracts with other communities (that do pay the per capita fee) where they take trash to the facility. So, we’re aware of it, and we’ve always permitted a limited amount of out of town waste.”

Jones said the landfill is currently projected to be full in about 12 years. She noted the landfill is going to fill up regardless of whether the city takes trash from Riverside. She also said the city-run landfill, if it only relied upon revenue from trash generated in the city, wouldn’t bring in enough income to cover the cost of operations there.

She said that when the part of the landfill now in use was built, it was projected to last 15 years, which it has already exceeded.

Bridgeo said he anticipates city councilors, when the remaining life of the landfill dwindles to around five years, will need to “make some very serious decisions about the long-range plan for what’s going to happen to the community’s solid waste.”

He noted the other communities that pay to use Hatch Hill don’t have long-term contracts promising that they’ll be able to continue to bring their trash to Hatch Hill in the future. Nor would they, like the city of Augusta does, have any future liability should an environmental problem arise at the landfill, he said.

Bridgeo said he and Jones recently attended “a rather contentious meeting in Gardiner where folks from Pittston were upset at our rate structure,” particularly that Augusta does not charge itself a per capita fee as a customer of its own landfill.

Ward 1 City Councilor Linda Conti said if residents of the seven towns which use Hatch Hill want to use the landfill with no per capita fee, they should move to Augusta.

The town of Pittston left Hatch Hill in 2013, directing residents to take their trash to a facility in West Bath, instead. But residents voted in 2017 to return to Hatch Hill.

Mayor David Rollins said as a taxpayer he is comfortable with the current arrangement that provides revenues to pay off debt associated with the landfill without it being subsidized by Augusta property taxpayers. He said it seemed like Black had an axe to grind with Riverside and said he is sorry for his frustrations and said he is valued member of Hatch Hill.

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