A Pennsylvania-based company with plants overseas is looking to buy a shuttered recycling and waste-to-energy plant in Hampden, a committee representing the solid waste disposal interests of more than 100 Maine municipalities announced Tuesday.

The Municipal Review Committee held a virtual town hall meeting to introduce Robert Van Naarden, founder and chief executive officer of Delta Thermo Energy Inc., who said his company focuses on clean municipal solid waste processing.

Delta was drawn to the Fiberight plant in Hampden, owned by Coastal Maine LLC, because the facility is set up and has contracts with 115 Maine municipalities. That saves time, Van Naarden said, and Delta can start operating the facility soon after taking ownership of it.

“Maine is a reasonably rural state where people are very concerned about the environment,” Van Naarden said. “That was very appealing to us.”

Van Naarden estimated it would take between 60 and 70 days to close on financing and acquisition of the plant.

“Between four and six weeks after that,” he said, “we fully expect to restart the facility as designed.”

Tipping fees would not increase for the 115 municipalities that are part of the MRC agreement, according to Van Naarden.

“Rest assured, the tipping fees will not be changed,” he said. “We will honor the contract as is.”

Municipal Review Committee officials announced at a meeting last July 22 that several entities had expressed interest in buying and managing the facility, which took solid waste from municipalities, including China, Oakland and Unity.

Michael Carroll, executive director of the Municipal Review Committee, said three finalists were identified from the list of suitors, with Delta emerging on top. Previous Coastal workers were contacted to see if they are available to return, he said, adding that as much work as possible is being done in the area of staffing, permitting and licensing prior to a sale.

Carroll said Delta has been excellent to work with as the review committee assessed and dealt with prospective buyers.

“This purchase is still in negotiations, so we may not be able to answer all your questions at this time,” Carroll said to those who took part in Tuesday’s virtual meeting.

Review Committee Board President Karen Fussell said officials have been working with representatives of Delta the last several weeks and were increasingly impressed with the company.

“We’re excited that we’re able to share this news with you today,” said Fussell, finance director for the town of Brewer.

Coastal closed its facility May 28, 2020, for financial reasons. As part of an agreement in place, any solid waste needing to be diverted from Coastal would go to Crossroads-Waste Management in Norridgewock. After the closure, solid waste from the 115 MRC municipalities was sent there or to Juniper Ridge in Alton, near Old Town.

To reduce the amount of waste being landfilled, Waste Management agreed to allow about 75% of that waste to go to Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. in Orrington, even though Waste Management had exclusivity to the waste and lost funds because of the move.

The review committee is a nonprofit corporation that seeks to ensure affordable, long-term and environmentally sound disposal of municipal solid waste. It has worked for several years to sponsor Coastal, which owns and operates the Fiberight facility. Coastal’s parent company is Fiberight. Coastal sought to turn about 80% of the material it received into biogas, plastic fuel briquettes, paper pulp and other products.

Van Naarden said Delta, based outside Philadelphia, is focused on clean processing of municipal solid waste.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity not only to bring this facility back online, but to do what is important for us, and that is working out an environmentally and financially sound way of handling the waste and getting all of the 115 communities back online,” he said.

Delta’s operations overseas have been successful in meeting requirements the company has set out, according to Van Naarden. The Japan operation includes a hydrothermal decomposition unit, the South Korea site has a wastewater treatment facility and the Germany site is a paper plant used to make egg crates, and is the largest manufacturer of egg crates in Germany, Van Naarden said.

“Of course, we want to bring that success to Hampden, Maine, and the MRC,” he said.

Delta did successful pilot testing for three years in space it rented in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, which had its own wastewater treatment plant, produced nitrogen and had a composting center, landfill, transfer station and sorting center, according to Van Naarden. Delta now runs the operation in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

He said Delta’s team brings much experience, including many employees who have worked in the industry for more than 30 years.

“Success always lives in experience and the people,” Van Naarden said. “We are committed to rehiring former Coastal Maine Resources facility workers, considering they’re still available and meet our criteria.”

Under Delta’s ownership, the Hampden facility would operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and employ about 30 people per shift, according to Van Naarden. Management will be on site, he said.

Six months after the plant is back in operation, Delta would look to make improvements, according to Van Naarden. The first improvement would likely be a bridge or crane used to service equipment and help employees.

“That’s essential,” he said. “We have to do it right away.”

He said as Delta moves forward after a sale, it plans to have a citizen advisory board that would meet regularly with the Municipal Review Committee and municipalities.

“I think that’s essential,” Van Naarden said. “You’ll have questions. We’ll, hopefully, have answers.”

Over the long term, Delta would expect to add additional opportunities for landfill and incineration diversion, and improve green energy output, according to Van Naarden.

He said he does not like landfills and incinerators, which are bad for the environment.

“I’m an environmentalist,” he said. “I even drive an electric car.”

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