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 — Fees to bring most types of trash to Hatch Hill Landfill in Augusta, which the city increased last July, would increase another 15% in April under a proposal officials say is necessary to put aside money to help offset the future cost of a proposed expansion. 

Those plans come as the landfill is projected to be full in about four years.

A proposal city councilors discussed last week and on which they are scheduled to vote Thursday would increase by 15% nearly all the fees to take waste to the city-owned landfill, which is used by residents and private trash haulers from several surrounding municipalities.

The increase would not directly impact most city residents, most of whom have curbside pickup of rubbish, provided by the city at no charge. The city would not increase the $62-per-ton fee Hatch Hill charges the city to bring residents’ trash that is collected at curbside and brought to Hatch Hill. It would also not increase the fee for those who bring recycling there.

But nearly everyone else who uses Hatch Hill, including residents of Augusta and the eight other municipalities — Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Pittston, Randolph and Whitefield — who bring  their own trash to Hatch Hill, and private haulers who pick up trash in the surrounding communities and bring it to Hatch Hill, would pay 15% more in tipping fees.

That increase would boost the fees to bring trash there to between $62 and $115 a ton, depending on what is in the rubbish and other variables.


The proposal to increase fees comes months after the city increased Hatch Hill fees last year, which hiked the tipping fee for residential users and small commercial haulers from $77 to $88 a ton.

City officials said they are looking to set Hatch Hill rates at just the right amount to generate enough revenue to cover expenses, without unduly burdening residents and other users, while also controlling how much waste comes into the facility. This includes waste that, with each load, generates revenue, but also brings the landfill closer to being full.

With the landfill projected to reach its current capacity in about four years, the city has consultants studying the potential for a “vertical expansion” of the facility, with a goal of creating more space for trash disposal on top of part of the existing landfill.

Lesley Jones, director of Augusta Public Works, said such an expansion could cost about $20 million and increase the projected lifespan of the landfill by 12 to 25 years, depending on usage.

Jones said a study is underway to see if the soils at the landfill could support a vertical expansion, at a cost of about $1.3 million for the study and to begin the state Department of Environmental Protection permitting process.

She said the increased rates, implemented last year and proposed this year, increased revenues to address a budget shortfall, and to set aside money to help offset the projected $20 million cost of building a vertical expansion.


Jones said Hatch Hill would likely borrow the funds for the expansion and pay it back in the coming years from revenues generated from landfill users. She said any money the city can raise now with increased fees could reduce the amount it would have to borrow for the expansion.

For now, the city has few other options for what to do with residents’ trash once the current landfill space is filled, especially given many landfills are closing and new ones are not replacing them.

“Solid waste disposal capacity is at a premium, both in Maine and nationwide, and I think it’s going to continue to be so,” Jones said.

John Chalmers, the city’s deputy director of administration and solid waste, said law changes prompted by concerns about so-called “forever chemicals,” banning the spreading of sludge on land, has meant sludge now goes to landfills, further increasing demand on them.

As a result, Chalmers said, landfill rates have gone up around the state, and the city regularly gets calls from haulers and other municipalities looking to haul solid waste to the landfill in Augusta.

Chalmers said the city has declined requests to bring sludge to Hatch Hill.


The proposal now before city councilors would also not take on new commercial customers, such as private haulers. At the same time, commercial haulers who now use the landfill would be limited to the amount of trash they are now bringing to Hatch Hill.

City officials have discussed whether Hatch Hill should continue taking trash from residents and haulers from surrounding communities. Ending that practice would slow the rate at which the landfill is nearing its capacity, and increase the number of years Augusta residents could use the facility. It would also dramatically increase costs to Augusta because the city would no longer be taking in revenue that helps cover the cost of running the landfill.

Chalmers said with a 15% increase, Hatch Hill would still be within the range of rates charged by other waste disposal facilities in Maine, but on the high end of that range.

He said the last rate increase did not reduce the amount of trash being brought to Hatch Hill. He speculated, however, that as the rate increases, some users could seek out other places to bring their trash, reducing the amount of waste and revenue coming to Hatch Hill.

Several city councilors expressed support for the rate increase and for not allowing new commercial haulers to use the landfill.

Jones said a hydrogeological report looking at the soils at Hatch Hill to help determine if a vertical expansion can be done should be ready in March.

She said if the report concludes the expansion can be done, it would be her recommendation the city “go full speed” on permitting, designing and building the expansion. She said the process of planning for the next solution for trash disposal in Augusta began about two years ago.

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