ORONO – A Fiberight spokesman on Wednesday informed the developer of the trash-to-fuel plant in Hampden that the facility will not be fully operational until the early part of next year.
He added, however, that the Fiberight plant is expected to start accepting trash this summer.
The original opening date for the $69 million Fiberight plant was April 1, but a lawsuit by its competitor – the Penobscot Energy Recovery Company or PERC — delayed things by some 250 days, officials said. The winter’s cold weather also didn’t help.
“We’re expecting to be commercial in the first quarter 2019,” said Carl Knowlton, head of corporate development and asset management for Fiberight, told the board of the Municipal Review Committee.
The MRC is the developer who represents 115 towns that plan to send their trash to Hampden.
“The thinking right now, and this is subject to feedback from our construction partner, is that July would be the earliest we could take trash at the facility,” he added later.
Orono Town Manager Sophie Wilson stressed that she is one MRC board member who will not be happy if the Sept. 20 soft opening date is not met. Others voiced anticipation.
“I am pleased to heard that the facility is anticipating accepting trash, even if on a limited basis, earlier than September,” said Karen Fussell, Brewer finance director and MRC board member.
The delay in opening has raised concerns with some communities that have contracts with the MRC who don’t want their trash to be put into landfills.
The Fiberight plant is designed to use technology to change food waste into biogas, which is similar to natural gas, after the glass, metal and plastics are removed and recycled.
Until the plant is open, the MRC communities will dump their trash at Juniper Ridge Landfill, in Old Town, or Crossroads Landfill, in Norridgewock. This upset the leaders of five small towns in Hancock County who decided to continue to send their waste to PERC, which burns waste for electricity and landfills the residue.
The MRC’s executive director met with town leaders in Surry and Blue Hill, who share a transfer station with Segwick, Brooksville and Brooklin, and said he expects the contract with the MRC to remain in place after the delay in opening is over.
“Our intent is to continue to work with them and support them as a joining member in the best way they can,” said Greg Lounder, the MRC’s executive director.
The MRC board also voted on Wednesday to disperse unused funds to the original MRC member communities in August.