Carroll BoCC smarter than Frederick BoCC?

(Better to proceed with caution rather than risk incurring what could prove to be a crushing financial obligation.)
Frederick News Post
Nick Carrera
04/04/2012
Questions have been raised about the financial justification for the Frederick-Carroll county incinerator. The Board of Carroll County Commissioners responded by holding a solid waste forum to explore all waste options. Now, the president of their board has formed a Solid Waste Advisory Group to study all possibilities for handling solid waste.

Fact checking 'WTE 101, continued'

Frederick News Post
Karin Tome
11272011
If Harvey Alter were graded on his Nov. 17 commentary ("WTE 101, continued"), he wouldn't receive a very high score. It's not what he said, but what he didn't say. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority will issue bonds to pay for the proposed trash incinerator, but the county is obligated (through a separate contract with NMWDA) to make regular payments to them, such as you would for your mortgage. The county's System Benefit Charge is not "so-called," but very real. As a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Alter knows very well that the primary revenue for this business operation is based both on tipping fees and the SBC fee (which is found on residential and commercial property tax bills and can be raised without limit.) If the revenue from tipping and SBC fees, and the electricity sales and ferrous metal recovery don't cover those expenses, county residents will have to make up the difference through higher SBCs. Alter states that "... anecdotal evidence from around the country is that communities with WTE recycle more" and "Recycling and WTE together conserve and recover more resources than either alone." That statement is true only where recycling is at a very low level and the tonnage of ash (if used for landfill daily cover) and ferrous metal found in the ash are counted as recycling. However, as recycling increases it will compete with incineration, especially for plastics and paper. We could spend, however, a fraction of the cost of the incinerator on alternative ways to divert waste from the landfill (such as a commercial compost facility or manned recycling centers throughout the county (in addition to Reich's Ford Road) and we'd be able to recover many more resources and conserve more energy than would be produced by burning them. For example: Manufacturing a ton of newspaper from trees takes 11,699 kilowatt hours; if that ton of paper is recycled, a new ton of paper can be made using only 6,442 kWh, but if it's burned it only produces 1,875 kWh of electricity.

Fact checking ‘WTE 101, continued’

Frederick News Post
Karin Tome
11272011
If Harvey Alter were graded on his Nov. 17 commentary ("WTE 101, continued"), he wouldn't receive a very high score. It's not what he said, but what he didn't say. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority will issue bonds to pay for the proposed trash incinerator, but the county is obligated (through a separate contract with NMWDA) to make regular payments to them, such as you would for your mortgage. The county's System Benefit Charge is not "so-called," but very real. As a member of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Alter knows very well that the primary revenue for this business operation is based both on tipping fees and the SBC fee (which is found on residential and commercial property tax bills and can be raised without limit.) If the revenue from tipping and SBC fees, and the electricity sales and ferrous metal recovery don't cover those expenses, county residents will have to make up the difference through higher SBCs. Alter states that "... anecdotal evidence from around the country is that communities with WTE recycle more" and "Recycling and WTE together conserve and recover more resources than either alone." That statement is true only where recycling is at a very low level and the tonnage of ash (if used for landfill daily cover) and ferrous metal found in the ash are counted as recycling. However, as recycling increases it will compete with incineration, especially for plastics and paper. We could spend, however, a fraction of the cost of the incinerator on alternative ways to divert waste from the landfill (such as a commercial compost facility or manned recycling centers throughout the county (in addition to Reich's Ford Road) and we'd be able to recover many more resources and conserve more energy than would be produced by burning them. For example: Manufacturing a ton of newspaper from trees takes 11,699 kilowatt hours; if that ton of paper is recycled, a new ton of paper can be made using only 6,442 kWh, but if it's burned it only produces 1,875 kWh of electricity.

Shelving WTE

Frederick News Post
05/07/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners last week abandoned their deliberations on a proposed waste-to-energy facility. The WTE technology, which involves incinerating trash while producing electricity, had been for some time the board's favored option to address the county's solid waste disposal requirements in coming decades. The board cited a number of considerations in making its decision. Among the most influential were the huge cost of the WTE facility (in the $500 million to $600 million range), siting difficulties, pollution/health concerns, and public opposition that might generate costly lawsuits and push a solution further into the future. ome are characterizing the board's vote as a self-serving, political decision by commissioners unwilling to make a tough, but correct, call. The lone vote to proceed down the WTE path was cast by Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr., who has publicly said that a pro WTE vote by any board member would be tantamount to signing his or her own political death warrant. That may be a bit dramatic and probably overstates the case. While the opponents of WTE have run a vocal, high-profile campaign, it's clear that many others in the county supported the incinerator-based solution. The board's vote didn't actually kill the WTE option, but rather shelved it, removing it from current consideration in favor of other solutions. The alternatives the board will be investigating include increased/enhanced recycling and waste reduction, expanding the existing landfill, contracting to truck Frederick County's solid waste to an existing WTE elsewhere, and alternative technologies such as anaerobic digestion.

Commissioners suspend incinerator plans

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
04/29/2009
The Frederick County Commissioners are suspending deliberations on a proposed trash incinerator, and will focus instead on alternative disposal options. The commissioners accepted bids on the project earlier this year, and appeared to have narrowed those down to a preferred site and contractor to build and run the incinerator. But they voted 4-1 on Tuesday to suspend that process. Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. voted against the motion. Also known as waste-to-energy, the trash incinerator was intended to be a cheaper, long-term answer to the county's shrinking landfill space. The proposed project would have been built by Wheelabrator and located at McKinney Industrial Park, across the river from Monocacy National Battlefield. It would have cost Frederick and Carroll counties up to $527 million, and one commissioner said Tuesday the cost could even be as high as $615 million. A motion to proceed with that contract and add requirements to make it less visually intrusive was defeated 3-2, with only commissioners Thompson and David Gray in favor.

Positive impulse

Frederick News Post
04/10/2009
The battle continues between those who support the county's investigation into waste-to-energy technology and those who advocate making recycling the focus of local solid waste management. Who is "right" isn't clear, and may never be, regardless of who eventually prevails. However, whether local enthusiasts are correct or not in their assertions about recycling's potential, the impetus behind this movement is generally a positive one. Rather than simply throwing money or technology at the county's solid waste concerns, recycling proponents are instead trying to mobilize the local community to accept this challenge and get personally involved, resident by resident, in a solution that requires their active participation. There are other issues as well, including the cost, siting and operating concerns, and environmental and health worries associated with the proposed WTE facility, which would generate electricity while incinerating solid waste. The recycling/waste reduction program preferred by many in the community would avoid all these issues to some extent.

New trash disposal option considered

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
03/05/2009
The county's waste-to-energy debate just got a little more complicated. Frederick County Commissioners Jan Gardner and Charles Jenkins announced Wednesday that they will look into another trash disposal option. This one uses a mechanical biological treatment system. The commissioners have considered building a $527 million incinerator that would burn trash and convert some of it into electricity. The idea has passionate supporters and detractors. Gardner and Jenkins plan to go to a March 16 conference in Philadelphia and meet with representatives of ArrowBio, the most well-known builder of mechanical biological treatment systems. None exist in the United States. There is one in Australia and one in Israel. The commissioners have boosted household recycling options this year. Still, that probably won't significantly reduce the 600 to 800 tons of daily residential trash that the county collects. Most of the county's trash is trucked to a landfill in southern Virginia, an option the county will have through 2015. The commissioners are looking for a more permanent option. "On a number of fronts, ArrowBio seems promising," Jenkins said at Wednesday's press conference. A ballpark estimate of the cost is $75 million to $100 million. If the county decides to build an incinerator with Wheelabrator, the company county staff recommends, the plant could cost the county up to $325 million. Carroll County would pay the rest. The two counties would share the plant, but it would be built in Frederick County.

County transfer station opens

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
01/19/2009
The first load of cans, bottles and plastic fell to the floor of the Frederick County Landfill's new transfer station Tuesday afternoon with a clang. Eight years in the making and two years later than county officials had hoped, the 56,053-square-foot concrete and metal structure officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday. County commissioners and other local officials attended. The new building will make it possible for the county to start its new single-stream recycling program. The transfer station will also be where 80 to 90 percent of the county's trash will be loaded onto 18-wheeler trucks and driven to out-of-state landfills. For the past several years, the county has shipped most of its trash because the local landfill is nearly full. Haulers would dump the trash at a makeshift outdoor transfer site, and cranes would load it into tractor-trailers. This meant working outdoors in cold, windy conditions, or in extreme heat. Wind would blow some of the trash away, and spread the dust and stench. Rain would wet the trash and cause it to weigh more, increasing the rates the county would pay to other states. The new indoor station is large enough that haulers can pull up under cover and dump the trash into containers below. Each 18-wheeler truck can carry 23 tons of trash, said Dan Bower, assistant superintendent of the county landfill. The transfer station will allow up to 2,000 tons of material a day to be processed. Haulers bring the trash in, and it is weighed on the station's massive scale and dumped in less than 15 minutes.

County expects higher rate with new recycling programs

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
12/28/2008
Frederick County expects to increase its recycling rate next year, after a new single-stream recycling program begins in the middle of January. About 44 percent of county trash was diverted or recycled in 2007, up from 39 percent in 2006, according to preliminary numbers calculated by the Maryland Department of the Environment. "It tells us we're moving in the right direction," said Phil Harris, superintendent of Solid Waste Management. "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Single-stream recycling means that bottles, cans, papers and cardboard are collected in a single container. Maryland uses a formula for calculating recycling rates that was included in the Maryland Recycling Act. Because each state calculates rates differently, Harris said the rates should not be compared across state lines. For instance, Maryland does not include construction and demolition recycling like other states.

Local recycling increasing

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
12/22/2008
Frederick County's recycling and diversion rate was just over 44 percent in 2007, according to preliminary calculations by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Over the last decade, the rates show that the percentage of Frederick County waste recycled has generally increased. For instance, the recycling rate was about 34 percent in 1997, compared to 44.3 percent in 2007. The rate is calculated by the Maryland Department of Environment using data provided by Frederick County and following the regulations of the Maryland Recycling Act. As the Frederick County Commissioners are poised to make a decision on whether to build a trash incinerator, recycling rates have attracted new attention.

Right vs. rush

Frederick News Post
12/11/2008
The issue that's brought "No Incinerator" signs to the front yards of numerous Frederick residences has also brought national attention to states like ours that are grappling with the pros and cons of building waste-to-energy plants. Investigating the topic in its Dec. 6-7 issue, The Wall Street Journal looked at controversies surrounding combustion-based waste treatment options by observing that "opposition has cropped up against proposals in California, Maryland and elsewhere." It seems we are not alone. Not so, for Kai Hagen. He's the only Frederick County commissioner opposed to the idea of building a WTE incinerator in Frederick, recently developing a PowerPoint presentation to elucidate his stance and outline alternatives. A Nov. 19 News-Post story said an audience of "about 100 people" gathered for the show, coming as it did on the cusp of the review of the two final incinerator-build bids which, at that time, commissioners expected to have before the board by the end of the year. Estimated expenditure: $350 million. Hagen articulated multiple criticisms of the "uncertain assumptions" being made by the pro-incinerator-leaning board. One involves population growth and per-household trash production predictions. The other hinges on questions surrounding future environmental regulations, meaning those likely to be enacted down the road.

Burnt Out

Frederick News Post
Katherine Heerbrandt
12/03/2008
'm not wild about writing yet another column on the waste-to-energy discussion. I stick with it not only out of a sense of moral obligation and civic duty, but in the sincere hope that someday Frederick County will get the answers it needs to make the right choice. Then everyone on both sides of the debate will form a circle, join hands and sing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" just like in that old hippy-dippy Coke commercial. OK, that's never going to happen. But come on, we're talking three years that this issue's been in the news. It's certain that county staff's been working at it much longer. And yet we still don't know with certainty how much it's going to cost to build and operate, where it will be located, or whether Frederick County will produce enough trash to feed the gaping mouth of the mass-burn beast we've come to know as WTE. Will it be a 1,500-ton incinerator or a 900-ton incinerator? With or without hauling Carroll County's garbage into the county, coming up with 1,500 tons of trash a day is no small feat. So will the county one day be forced to advertise outside its borders with slogans like, Your Trash is Our Treasure; You Bring it, We Burn it; or Got Trash? And I still can't get a logical answer to this burning question: How are aggressive recycling efforts compatible with the WTE's exceptionally large appetite for traditional recyclables like plastics and paper?

Commissioner minimizes Thanksgiving waste

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/27/2008
When Frederick County Commissioner Kai Hagen takes his trash out after the Thanksgiving meal, he hopes his can will be nearly empty. Hagen, an active recycling advocate for nearly 20 years, has recently pushed for waste reduction to eliminate the need for a trash incinerator in Frederick County. It's something Hagen is willing to practice in his own life. Today, eliminating trash for the Thanksgiving meal will start before the groceries come home. His family shops with reusable bags. Hagen predicts the trash will only include a few turkey bones and some non-recycleable packaging. The family has its own composting pile, which is used on the garden. Nonmeat food scraps such as peels of vegetables or heads of carrots will be composted. "There are a lot of things you can do in your life just because they are good things to do," Hagen said. In his family, they don't use disposable dishes, and will recycle cans and bottles. Hagen is a big fan of Thanksgiving leftovers and they plan to put the turkey carcass in a pot of boiling water to start a soup. Hagen isn't doing anything special for Thanksgiving -- he recycles and composts year-round. "At some point, these things become a mindset," he said. "And if more people made decisions, or spent money, or other things, with those things in mind, we'd change the world a whole lot faster."

My presentation went beyond recycling

Gazette
Kai Hagen
11/27/2008
I made a presentation on Nov. 18 to my colleagues on the Frederick Board of County Commissioners and the public about our solid waste challenges, and our consideration of a controversial 1,500-ton-per-day, regional waste-to-energy incinerator (WTE). But if you read The Gazette's article on my presentation last week, you might have the impression that the message was as simple as: Recycle and compost more and sooner than current plans and we won't need an incinerator. While there's truth in that basic idea, the emphasis was on comparing the long-term economic impact and uncertainties associated with WTE with a viable alternative option, and evaluating the proper and optimal process we should employ before making a decision to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, and lock the county into a particular approach for decades. The presentation also included a brief overview and criticism of the process to date; some perspective about the misperception that we don't have time to engage a more thorough and complete process; an examination of some of the other real and substantial risks that come with WTE; and a consideration of the significant value and benefits of a more flexible and adaptable system.

Hagen attacks incinerator idea

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/19/2008
The only Frederick County commissioner opposed to a trash incinerator asked other board members at a meeting Tuesday to step back and re-evaluate their research. About 100 people attended to watch Commissioner Kai Hagen's PowerPoint on an incinerator and what he sees as the alternatives. His presentation comes as the commissioners are poised to review two final bids for the incinerator. It is also known as waste-to-energy because it will produce electricity. The incinerator is estimated to cost $325 million, though that number will be more exact after the bids are revealed. County staff members are evaluating those bids, and commissioners expect to have them before the board by the end of the year. Hagen criticized the board for basing the preference to build an incinerator on uncertain assumptions, such as population growth, how much trash each household will produce, or what environmental regulations could be put in place in the future. He also said they have underestimated the value of flexibility in dealing with waste, and overestimated the benefit of the certainty that an incinerator would bring to waste disposal. "It is more important to make the right decision than a rush decision," he said. He asked for a professional study of the economic risk waste-to-energy poses should those assumptions be different and asked for alternatives to be reviewed. His preferred alternative would include a combination of recycling, composting and diversion, along with using landfill space that would have to be used for ash with an incinerator, and hauling the rest of the trash to out-of-state landfills. He said with a 70 percent recycling rate by 2020, and 80 percent by 2030, the county would spend less long-term than with an incinerator.

County unveils new blueprint for recycling

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
11/8/2008
Frederick County is distributing thousands of new 65-gallon recycling containers over the next two months in preparation for the launch of single-stream recycling. Under the new recycling program, residents will be able to put all of their recyclables in one container, instead of sorting those materials. They also will be able to recycle more materials, including aluminum foil, yogurt containers and nonmetallic wrapping paper. Middletown will be the first area to get the new containers, with about 1,200 expected to be delivered Monday. Even though the 65-gallon containers will be distributed in December and January, the county is asking residents to continue using their 18-gallon bins until the new program starts. That program is expected to begin at the beginning of 2009. A pilot program in Mount Airy resulted in recycling participation as high as 80 percent, according to county officials.

Official doubts incinerator estimates

Carroll County Times
Carrie Ann Knauer
11/19/2008
While Carroll and Frederick county leaders are waiting on best and final proposals for an incinerator to be shared by the two counties, one Frederick commissioner is urging his board to reconsider the assumptions the proposal is built on. Frederick County Commissioner Kai Hagen gave a presentation to the Frederick board Tuesday on his reservations with the proposed bicounty waste-to-energy incinerator and the need to investigate other solid waste management alternatives. “The goal is to provide enough information to suggest that there is more that we need to know and more that we need to take a look at,” Hagen told three of the four other board members and an audience of more than 50 people. Hagen said the assumptions used to develop the building cost estimates and operational cost estimates have used outdated data that is very favorable to building an incinerator. “In general, Frederick County has, to date, been overly assured of the relative economic certainties of the waste-to-energy option, which have been far from that certain,” Hagen said. The 2005 report by consultant firm R.W. Beck used an estimated construction cost of $323 million for a 1,500 ton-per-day incinerator to be shared by Carroll and Frederick counties, Hagen said. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority has used $350 million as its projected cost in presentations to Carroll County, and a specific price is being drafted by the two companies that are bidding on the project.

County may license trash haulers

Frederick News Post
Meg Tully
10/29/2008
The Frederick County Commissioners may replace a controversial trash franchising plan with a new proposal to license trash haulers. As the commissioners culled their list of 2009 state legislative priorities Tuesday morning, they opted not to vote about moving forward on franchising. They will discuss licensing as an alternative at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 6. County officials had touted the franchising bill as a tool to increase recycling because it would allow them to make curbside pickup mandatory in trash collection contracts. Only 54,000 households now get curbside recycling. That service is provided by the county. The franchising bill failed last April in the Maryland General Assembly, when trash haulers objected and Frederick County Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, refused to support it. The bill would have given the county the authority to arrange area trash hauling contracts instead of letting residents individually choose haulers. Licensing haulers could have the same effect, by requiring curbside pickup as a condition of getting a license from the county. Commissioner Kai Hagen announced Tuesday that he will oppose franchising, sparking interest in the licensing alternative. He decided to oppose the franchising legislation, he said, because he believes the county could increase its recycling programs with the powers it has now.

Frederick commissioners consider solid waste options

Frederick News Post
Karen Gardner
09/27/2008
Years before she became president of the Frederick County Commissioners, Jan Gardner remembers telling her children they couldn't buy certain items in the grocery store because they would remain in the landfill indefinitely. "I know more about trash than I ever thought I would," she said at a public meeting Thursday about the county's solid waste disposal woes. The county is considering building a $325 million incinerator, also called a waste to energy plant. At the same time, Gardner suggested the county look into building a new landfill that would include components of a resource recovery park, or RRP. All this is being considered for the 600 to 800 tons of residential trash the county collects nearly every day. "When we go to a public hearing with proposals for WTE, I think we should also go to public hearing with proposals for a landfill," Gardner said.

“Waste-to-Energy” = a risky waste of energy, resources and money (part 3)

Frederick Politics
Kai Hagen
09/24/2008
There is more to evaluate and compare, of course. But, for now, I'll end with a very heartfelt word of encouragement that the county commissioners genuinely consider the subjective, but real, value of alternatives that preserve our flexibility. We risk more than some seem to appreciate by selecting a path that heads backwards, and fails to account for the rapid changes - even major paradigm shifts - we are seeing in the world around us today. We can be the last community - or one of the last - in the entire country to choose Waste-to-Energy incineration, permanently converting limited resources to ash (because our plan does not include only incinerating what can not be recycled or composted). Or we can show real leadership, and become one of a growing number of communities that will serve as working models of a better, more flexible and adaptable, more environmentally-friendly, and less economically-risky path.