A heavy equipment operator compacts the pile July 27 at Hatch Hill landfill in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — With the city-owned Hatch Hill landfill expected to be full in about five years officials have asked a consulting engineer to further study options for waste disposal.

Among those options are expanding the landfill vertically, closing it and converting it to a transfer station, reducing the amount of waste accepted from eight surrounding communities that use it, privatizing trash collection, encouraging more recycling or a combination of those ideas.

Whatever option is pursued, officials acknowledge they need to take action soon; the landfill is projected to be full in five years at its current disposal rate of about 40,000 tons a year.

The option to expand the landfill vertically another 60 feet or so higher could take up to five years, the same amount of years the landfill is projected to have left.

That option would cost between $15 million and $20 million, Randy Tome, a senior project manager at Woodard and Curran told city councilors at a workshop last week. It would expand the landfill over 11 acres, including on top of an older section not currently in use, higher by about 60 feet. Tome has been the city’s solid waste consultant for many years.

Tome estimated such an expansion, which would have to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection, would extend the lifespan of the landfill by about 12 years at the current disposal rate and enable Hatch Hill to take another 500,000 tons of waste. He said it could be funded by increasing tipping fees by 10%, from the current $68 a ton to $75 a ton.


City officials asked about potentially extending the landfill’s lifespan by reducing the disposal rate, potentially by limiting how much waste is accepted from the eight surrounding municipalities, and other ways to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill. But while still striking a balance to keep the revenues that come with each load of waste coming in enough to cover fixed expenses there.

“It would seem that one option we have, as the owners of the landfill, is to limit how much outside waste comes into it from surrounding communities,” City Manager William Bridgeo said, acknowledging there is concern if the waste coming into the facility is reduced too much it could reduce revenues too low to cover fixed expenses. “I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to find out where the break point is with that. Because it may be you can buy another five years and take some of the pressure off by saying we’re going to continue to allow other communities to come in, but we’re only going to have capacity for X amount of waste and we’re now only going to accept waste from the communities that enter into a five-year binding commitment.”

A garbage truck dumps a load at Hatch Hill landfill July 27 in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Tome is expected to study the city’s options more closely and come back to report his findings in about 75 days.

He said he personally liked the idea of a combination. Tome suggested the city could do a vertical expansion of the landfill, thus prolonging the life of the remaining landfill space, while also starting to build a transfer station at the same site.

Tome said the city could perhaps limit the use of the remaining landfill space, once it is expanded, to private haulers and direct residents to bring their waste to the transfer station. That would avoid having residents drive up onto the higher pile of waste. He said then once the expanded landfill fills up, the city would already have a transfer station in place when it inevitably closes.

If the city closed the landfill and opened a transfer station in its place, Augusta would then pay to send waste to a privately owned site. The only two options for that would be transporting garbage to a Waste Management landfill in Norridgewock or a Casella landfill in Old Town. The city could also the privatize the current municipally-provided curbside trash pickup and encourage users to recycle more materials by charging more for unsorted items to be thrown into the landfill.

Ward 3 Councilor Mike Michaud encouraged his fellow councilors to think long term.

“That landfill is going to reach its peak of whatever sooner or later,” he said. “If it’s going to be less expensive over the next 25 years to start transitioning into a transfer station, as opposed to trying to get that last few bags of rubbish into that landfill, I think somebody needs to do their due diligence and see what’s in the best interest of taxpayers. Because I think we’re, at this point, just delaying the inevitable.”

Hatch Hill brings the city of Augusta about $3 million a year in revenues, from user fees from private haulers and from surrounding municipalities that pay a fee so their residents’ trash can be brought there. Those municipalities include Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Pittston, Randolph and Whitefield.

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