Trash Talk: Carroll Commissioners To Address Incinerator Project

A discussion of a controversial proposed incinerator project is now on the Carroll County commissioners' agenda.

The discussion about a joint incinerator project with Carroll and Frederick Counties began several years ago. Carroll County commissioners are expected to continue the conversation in the coming weeks.

In 2009, the previous board of Carroll County commissioners partnered with Frederick County in planning to build a waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator.

In its first year of office, the current board of commissioners made no decisions on the plan, which has sparked community concern in both counties. The commissioners are now expected to hold a public meeting on the project, possibly as early as the end of this month.

An article in the Frederick News Post reports that an agreement struck between Frederick and Carroll counties includes the construction of 1,500-ton-per-day incinerator at McKinney Industrial Park in Frederick. The plant would burn trash to generate electricity for both counties. Frederick County officials estimate 45 megawatts will be generated -- enough to power 45,000 homes.

The current plan has the two counties sharing in the construction costs, with Frederick County picking up 60 percent of the tab -- estimated at $221 million. Carroll County now ships much of its trash to Pennsylvania.

If Carroll County backs out of the agreement, it could face a $3 million penalty. If both counties opt out, that amount would be split in half, but Carroll County could also find a suitable replacement partner, the Frederick News Post reported.

In 2009 Carroll County resident Don West established a citizens group called Waste Not! Carroll as a direct response to the proposed incinerator plan.

"We felt that there had been very little organized public opposition to the plan in Carroll to that point," West said. "We realized that it would be the only way we could change that course."

Over the past two years the group has become active in the county beyond just speaking out against the incinerator project. The group is active in educating residents on waste issues and in spearheading initiatives such as providing a composting and recycling program at the Maryland Wine Festival.

In March, Robin Davidov, an official from the about the city's potential role in the incinerator project. She said that a waste incinerator could help Carroll County reduce waste disposal costs, help the environment and reduce the use of landfills.

But West disagrees.

"The Waste to Energy partnership would be a disaster for the citizens of Carroll County, most especially their wallets," West said. 

"It would tie us for 30 years to an unnecessary and outdated technology, with no opportunity for innovation or progress away from a 'bury or burn' mentality.  The taxpayers would be responsible for paying for building and operating this facility whether we use it or not - whether it supplies enough electricity to pay its bills and whether we can supply it with enough of the right type of waste to generate that electricity.  These facts are all conveniently overlooked by the proponents of the project," West said.

All eyes have been on the Carroll County commissioners for the past year, waiting to find out if they are in or out on the project.

Carroll County Director of Public Works Thomas Rio told the Frederick News Post in early December, "At this point they (the commissioners) continue to look at all of their options. They have not made any decision to turn away from this project at all. ... At this point, they want to understand the other alternatives."

Commissioners Richard Rothschild and Haven Shoemaker took positions against the incinerator project when campaigning for office two years ago.

“Waste-to-energy is a good concept but the financial realities of the project, as currently structured, render it economically unappealing to Carroll County," Rothschild said. “I firmly believe Carroll County Citizens have no appetite for a WTE incinerator.”

Shoemaker agrees that the incinerator isn't a good fit for Carroll County.

"I campaigned on the notion that the incinerator was a bad deal for Carroll," Shoemaker said. "It's too expensive and locks us in to one form of waste disposal for 30 years. In the meantime, technology continues to evolve." 

Shoemaker added, "I'm not convinced that government should be in the incinerator business, when the private sector is already doing such business capably."

Judith M. Smith January 06, 2012 at 04:15 PM
It is almost impossible to get the general public to pay attention to this subject--they put their trash out by the curb and that's the end of their interest in the subject....What do you mean that burning this stuff is bad for us??? I can't see anything or smell it, so it must've been burned up! Thirty years for the life of the proposed plant?? Well, I probably won't be living here anyway...or maybe dead...Health issues?? How can they prove something that doesn't exist... Do these rambling thoughts sound a little familiar?? The residents of the Union Bridge area have had to face those very questions...and hopefully the rest of Carroll County will start to pay some attention.......
Buck Harmon January 07, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Maybe the BOC should look into the cost to provide Carroll residents with their own little burning barrel... the way it was done 40~50 years ago. Everyone just burn your own...save a lot of $$. The savings could be used to wage bigger wars with the State.
watchingfive January 07, 2012 at 01:48 PM
As candidates the commissioners ran against the WTE facility, except Roush, who remained open on the issue. And of course Frazier has no clue about anything. They ran on economic grounds and that won't change - environmental concerns mean nothing to these folks. So the issue has to remain economic. They won't care about environmentally friendly alternatives unless those cost less. They will look at contract costs, potential cost risks that may crop up later, costs to back out of the agreement the county has, and weigh it all against hauling trash to landfills and out of county. It's going to take aggressive work and smart business planning to bring other alternatives into play with this backward thinking county leadership. But I think the economics will win the day and buy some time - Bruce Holstein has a strong economic case lined up and Rothschild will back him.
Gerald Fuss January 07, 2012 at 03:21 PM
The issue of trash disposal needs to consider what is economically responsible, environmentall friendly, efficient and practical. One option ought not be considered, and that is continuing to truck our trash to other neighboring states. We need to think hard about how we can best manage our waste that does not simply dump it somewhere else. The costs and practice of transporting tons and tons of waste to other areas make it undesirable to the point that it should be ruled out. It's our trash. How can we best live with what we throw away-- long term?
Don West January 08, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I agree that we should be responsible for our own waste. The unfortunate reality is that waste is big business, and our trash is a commodity, subject to free market forces (the Supreme Court has ruled as such). Therefore, the haulers (and the County) are free to take trash wherever they get get the best price. As long as there are other jurisdictions that will take our trash for a better price, that's what will happen. The 'market' has decided. The only way we will truly get control of our waste is to adopt a 'zero waste' strategy.


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