[NEWS] Hartford, Connecticut Pondering Future of Trash Incinerator
– by Gregory B. Hladky, April 28, 2016, Hartford Courant
One-third of all the waste generated in Connecticut ends up at the aging trash-to-energy plant in the South Meadows. The future of that facility, and what will happen to all that garbage, is now in doubt.
The state is currently reviewing private industry proposals for creating a more modern system focusing on recycling, composting and bio-energy rather than incineration. The big problem with those plans is that Hartford may not agree.
For the past 27 years, Hartford residents have been putting up with the pollution from burning all that trash, the traffic from as many as 300 trucks per day, and all the infrastructure, fire and police costs associated with the garbage plant.
Another sore point is that recent payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) to Hartford from the quasi-state agency that owns the plant have plunged from $5 million annually to just $1.5 million.
“I’m not convinced that having a trash plant there is the highest, best use of that river-front property,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “I want to have a broader discussion … about the potential economic development opportunities the South Meadows presents.”
Bronin said Hartford officials aren’t ruling out the possibility of accepting a new, cleaner refuse facility at the 80-acre South Meadows site, but he made it clear they will need a lot of convincing.
If Hartford were to reject a new, updated refuse facility, it would leave state officials and the more than 50 communities that now send their garbage to the South Meadows with a massive problem of finding another trash plan location.
“It’s always challenging to find a site for a large-scale facility in Connecticut. The most important factor is finding a host community, which always takes time,” admitted Lee Sawyer, the state’s project manager in charge of the effort to update the region’s solid waste disposal system.
“There’s always NIMBY,” said Marian Chertow, director of Yale University’s Program on Solid Waste Policy, referring to the not-in-my-backyard response that can accompany discussions about where to locate a garbage plant. “Yet there’s always trash.”
“People make lots of waste but they don’t want to put it anywhere close by,” said Chertow.
Sawyer, who works for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said failure to find some replacement or updated version of the South Meadows plant would send refuse disposal costs in the region soaring.
It’s clear that state officials are hoping Hartford can be persuaded to remain as host for any new facility. “We consider [the City of Hartford] to be the most important stakeholder in the whole process,” Sawyer said. “It really needs to work well for Hartford in order to be successful.”
Technically, Hartford might not have the authority to block the state from continuing to use a revamped refuse plant in the South Meadows. Sawyer said state agencies don’t have to submit their projects to local zoning controls.
But Sawyer added the CRRA has traditionally asked local zoning approval for any of its refuse-related projects.
“Our intent is not to challenge Hartford’s authority to have oversight over the project,” he said.
Hartford officials want to negotiate as good a deal for the city as they possibly can, and may be using the possibility of refusing to play host to the plant any longer as a bargaining ploy.