The city of Biddeford and officials with Maine Energy Recovery Co. are reviving attempts to shut down the waste-to-energy facility. The plan, still in the works, would allow city officials to buy MERC from Casella for $7.5 million, which Casella says is "well below" estimated market value.
The city council on Tuesday voted to establish a negotiating committee to work with Vermont-based Casella to finalize MERC's closure plan, according to a press release from Casella. Details of the plan include establishing a curbside residential recycling program in Biddeford and building a new solid waste transfer station in Westbrook. The agreement also includes securing a permit to allow the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town to accept municipal solid waste. Casella operates the landfill but it's currently owned by the state; Casella plans to ask the state to transfer ownership.
Brian Oliver, vice president of Casella's eastern region, said Casella wants to maximize recycling alternatives and move both the company and the city toward a more environmentally friendly landfill model of municipal waste disposal.
The landfill has been the subject of recent controversy. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection recently decided to allow Casella to apply to double its waste capacity to nearly 20 million cubic yards, a move that local residents have opposed, according to the Maine Campus. A group of lawmakers has also asked the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to look into Casella's business practices.
Biddeford officials have not confirmed many details related to a plan to close MERC and move trash processing to Westbrook, but did say the two communities have been talking with Casella, according to Current Publishing. In 2009, MERC announced a plan to build a $15 million processing facility in Westbrook to reduce the amount of trash handled in Biddeford, but in 2010 said that proposal was on hiatus due to economic conditions.