A garbage truck dumps a load in July 2021 at Hatch Hill landfill in Augusta. The city is considering increasing tipping fees for the landfill. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — The cost to take trash to Hatch Hill landfill would increase under a proposal being considered by the city.

Administrators recommend the city increase most rates at the landfill, which they said are currently lower than other landfills’, to help address a budget shortfall, deal with increased fuel costs, and pay for anticipated upcoming costs associated with planning, engineering and seeking permits for a proposed vertical expansion of the landfill. Without the proposed expansion, the landfill — which is in Augusta but takes trash from residents and businesses in several surrounding municipalities — is projected to be full in less than five years.

The tipping fee increase expected to go to city councilors next week for approval could be just the start of a series of fee increases. Those increases come as the landfill prepares for a roughly $20 million vertical expansion meant to extend its use for an additional 12 or so years, at current usage rates, or longer if the waste stream coming in decreases.

For now, the proposal is to increase tipping fees for most users. Fees that the city charges to itself, to bring the trash it picks up from residents curbside to the regional landfill, would remain the same, at $62 a ton.

The tipping fee for residential users and small commercial haulers would increase from $77 a ton to $88 a ton. And the minimum fee, charged for users bringing up to 200 pounds of material with them, would increase from $7.70 to $9.

City officials say the changes would help address a shortfall in the proposed budget, help address increased fuel costs, and provide funds to help pay for engineering and research costs, which could reach around $2 million, needed to prepare for expanding the landfill.


Lesley Jones, public works director, said during a City Council meeting Thursday night that a survey of other landfills showed Hatch Hill’s prices are quite a bit lower than competing landfills.

Jon Chalmers, director of solid waste, said the range of rates charged by other, commercial landfills ranges from $92 to $150 a ton. So Hatch Hill, at the proposed new rate of $88 a ton for residential users, would still be well below others’ rates, officials said.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind asked why the landfill wouldn’t increase its fees higher than the proposed rates, which would still be lower than the competition.

City Manager Susan Robertson responded that there will likely be additional increases coming, once the city has a better idea of what the vertical expansion costs will be.

“I’m envisioning we’re going to be coming back, maybe in six months, and do another increase, and maybe in another six months (from then), so this is the starting point,” Robertson said, adding that it spreads the cost increase out and gives business owners and others time to prepare.

A discount currently offered to haulers bringing more than 9,000 tons to the landfill annually would be reduced to the same less-discounted rate charged to haulers that bring more than 4,000 tons annually. Now, the larger haulers pay $65 a ton and the smaller $70 a ton. Under the proposal, both would pay $80 a ton.


Jones said the landfill established the tiered system in 2010 because large haulers were taking their waste elsewhere where fees were lower, giving them a discount to encourage them to instead bring their waste, and revenue associated with it, to Hatch Hill. But she said the market has changed and rates have increased elsewhere so the landfill doesn’t need to offer the discount to large haulers anymore.

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.

The proposed fee increases are projected to bring in an additional $568,000 in revenues next year, to $3.66 million. However, expenses are projected to increase by $423,000 next year, to $3.78 million, according to the proposed city budget.

The budget for the landfill for next year has a projected shortfall, if fees are not increased, of $235,000, which includes projected increases in gas and diesel. Jones said the shortfall is due to costs going up and the tipping fees remaining stagnant.

She said the landfill hasn’t had a fee increase since 2019, other than a state-required increase in 2021.

She said with the market changing the landfill has seen an increase in waste coming there, and a portion of that is likely from outside its service region.

The proposed new fee structure, which could take effect July 5, would also add some new penalties meant to encourage users to properly dispose of items like refrigerators and tires so they don’t end up in the landfill pile where they don’t belong, and where workers would have to retrieve them.

Chalmers said the landfill has increasingly been having users with mixed loads dumping refrigerators or tires into the landfill. To discourage that and encourage users to instead dispose of them properly at Hatch Hill, a fee of $50 per unit for commercial users and $25 per unit for residential users would be charged for refrigerants and $10 for car and light truck tires or $100 for large tires. By comparison, it would cost $3 a tire to dispose of car and light truck tires properly at Hatch Hill, up from the current $2 a tire.

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