AUGUSTA — Options city officials are considering as Hatch Hill landfill is projected to be full in five years include taking in much less or no regional waste from commercial haulers and residents of the eight surrounding municipalities that use the city-owned landfill.

That would mean municipalities would have to find somewhere else to take their waste.

Augusta city councilors, in pondering the future of Hatch Hill, are seriously considering a $15 million to $20 million proposal to expand the landfill vertically to provide more space and extend its lifespan.

But even if they do that, some councilors believe the city should consider keeping its remaining landfill space to itself, which would increase the lifespan of the landfill and also increase annual costs to taxpayers. Operations there now are funded in large part by revenues generated by taking in waste from commercial haulers that serve residents in the surrounding region.

“I think we have the opportunity to take something off the table, for future city councils, today, or soon, by being selfish,” Ward 3 Councilor Mike Michaud said during a Jan. 27 council discussion of the issue. “What I mean by that is invest in what we have to, but we accept only the waste from the city of Augusta, and commercial waste. That’s going to be more expensive now. But how much more expensive is it going to be in 15 to 20 years when we have to ship our waste to Ohio or Minnesota or something along those lines?”

That’s an opportunity for Augusta to maintain its own landfill for “many years,” a situation unique among communities in the region, Michaud said.


City staff, at the direction of councilors, are currently further studying different scenarios in which the city would accept varying amounts of regional waste, or in one scenario no regional waste at all. It’s part of an attempt to try to find what Public Works Director Lesley Jones said could be a theoretical “sweet spot,” balancing the desire to provide a place for residents to take their waste for as long as possible, while still accepting some regional waste from commercial haulers, without excessively burdening taxpayers with the increasing cost to do so.

Now, the landfill takes in about 40,000 tons of waste a year, but only about 6,000 of that is from residents, picked up by the city’s fleet of garbage trucks or brought to Hatch Hill by residents themselves. The remaining 34 tons of waste is from commercial haulers and residents of the eight surrounding communities, though some of the waste brought in by commercial haulers is surely from Augusta businesses and apartment buildings, to which the city does not provide trash pick-up.

If the city were to continue taking about the same amount of waste a year, the proposed vertical expansion would gain another 12 years, in addition to the now-remaining five years, before it is projected to be full. It would cost the city about $75 a ton to dispose of residents’ waste, or $161 a ton when including the cost of collecting that waste, in that scenario.

If the city were to reduce the amount of waste it takes, some scenarios would be:

• Taking 14,000 tons of regional waste per year would extend the landfill’s lifespan by 10 years, but add $125,000 more a year to the solid waste budget.

• Taking 10,000 tons of regional waste would extend the lifespan 20 years, but add $370,000 to the budget.


• Accepting no outside waste at all, taking just the 6,000 tons collected from residents, would add 33 years of lifespan, but at an additional $700,000 to the budget.

Jones said she, “from a science point of view, would go with the vertical expansion,” and then councilors decide how much regional waste to accept. If that’s less than the current 40,000 tons that comes in now, officials could consider bidding out and seeking contracts with haulers or municipalities for the landfill capacity not used by the city itself.

In Gardiner, a solid waste committee has been reformed and will look at what that city’s options for trash are, and could be.

“It’s not a surprise, they’ve been very open, to me and in my opinion are giving everybody time to figure things out,” Anne Davis, interim city manager of Gardiner, said Thursday. “We’re looking at alternatives. I’m sure they all aren’t going to be as easy as Augusta has been. Costs could go up if we have to drive north or south. But we’re aware, we’re talking about it. If Augusta can figure this out and get more space, great. But everyone has to look at this.”

Based on a per capita fee, Gardiner paid Augusta $58,000 last year so its residents’ waste could go to Hatch Hill. Additional tipping fees are charged to residents or haulers when they actually bring waste to Hatch Hill.

In Manchester, which last year paid Hatch Hill $25,800 to accept its residents’ waste, Town Manager E. Patrick Gilbert said they’ve been following the Hatch Hill issue and have received emailed updates from Augusta about it.

He said town officials haven’t really had any discussions yet about what Manchester would do if it could no longer use Hatch Hill. But he said one idea could be to band together with the other area towns that also may no longer be able to use it to seek a joint solution together.

“Obviously, I hope that’s not the direction it goes,” Gilbert said of Augusta pondering whether to reduce the amount of waste it takes from the eight member communities. “But we’re aware of what Augusta is looking at. We will all work together and come to some kind of solution.”

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