City to Pay Less for Trash Disposal, Receive More Money

Recycling Increases Play Pivotal Role

Waste-to-energy plant in Ward Hill generates up to 49 megawatts from one condensing steam turbine generator.

Waste-to-energy plant in Ward Hill generates up to 49 megawatts from one condensing steam turbine generator.

The city will see costs for refuse disposal drop and income rise from a Ward Hill waste-to-energy plant as a result of a proposed agreement.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini is expected to explain to Haverhill city councilors tonight how increased consumer waste recycling shaped a recently negotiated pact with Covanta Haverhill Associates. It is the first substantive change in the way the city and Covanta do business together in 20 years.

If approved by the city council, a new Solid Waste and Host Agreement would see the city’s cost to burn refuse at Covanta drop from $59.31 to $55 per ton and income to the city increase about a penny to $3.45 per ton, per month, for all waste delivered to the plant from at least 24 communities. The city will also receive a refund of 31 cents per ton for all waste it has delivered since last July 1. In addition, Covanta will pay a new $25,000 annual “community benefits fee” to the city. The city may use the money as it sees fit, but give Covanta “appropriate public recognition.”

During the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, the city received $2,019,336 from Covanta.

The proposed agreement would, for the first time, exclude recyclables from the maximum amount of trash Covanta is allowed to accept at the plant, potentially allowing the company to accept more non-recyclable refuse than is currently allowed by the state and local board of health. This “Recyclable Approval Triggering Event” anticipates the possibility of Covanta sharing a portion of any additional income with the city.

“‘Recyclable Approvals Triggering Event’ means the date that is the later of (i) the Board of Health’s modification of the site assignment to exclude recyclables from the calculated quantity of waste accepted at the facility under its permit or (ii) the MassDEP decision to approve exclusion of recyclables from the calculated quantity of waste accepted at the facility under its permit,” attorney Gary L. Gill-Austern, of Nutter McClennen & Fish of Boston, told WHAV Monday.

Covanta, formerly known as Ogden Martin Systems, operates the 1,650-ton-per-day waste-to-energy plant and landfill on the banks of the Merrimack River. It began commercial operations in 1989, following a prolonged legal battle between the company and administration of former Mayor Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. The “mass burn” plant replaced an existing landfill and failed refuse-derived fuel (RDF) processing plant developed by the late James Ricci of Haverhill. RDF was once shipped to a former oil-burning electricity generating station in Lawrence.

The new agreement expires in a little more than four years when the current Ward Hill Neck landfill is expected to be full, but may be extended to June 30, 2025. The agreement does not specifically address if the landfill—used mostly for ash disposal—will be expanded after 2020. Any future expansion must be approved by the board of health.

“There is no expansion contemplated for the combustion facility or the landfill,” attorney Gill-Austern said. Last year, Fiorentini told WHAV’s Open Mike Show listeners the company is negotiating with the Rogers’ family to expand the landfill.

Agreement Anticipates City Concessions

In exchange for additional benefits, the agreement also calls for the city to provide assistance in obtaining certain approvals and permits and modifying the Haverhill Board of Health site assignment.

Two such approvals are “reduced monitoring requirements at the site” and exclusion of recyclables from the amount Covanta is allowed to accept.

“No changes to what Covanta is doing now are envisioned. The monitoring requirements in the site assignment were specified in 1988 and are duplicative of the activities it now performs in accordance with the MassDEP-approved Environmental Monitoring Plan,” Gill-Austern explained.

The effect of removing recyclables from maximum trash allowed at the plant, he added, is an “…increase by approximately 15,000 tons per calendar year, an increase of roughly 2.5 percent of the amount now received at the facility,” Gill-Austern said.

As it has in the past, the city also agrees it not restrict waste from other communities. Covanta agrees landfill operations are limited to 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends. According to figures provided to the state Department of Environmental Protection, 50 acres of the landfill have been capped and 15.5 acres are in use and remain uncapped.

Ogden Martin Systems changed its name to Covanta Energy Corporation in 2001 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. The company was acquired by Danielson Holding Corporation in 2004.

One thought on “City to Pay Less for Trash Disposal, Receive More Money

  1. Ohhhh, so does this mean the mountain of ash will grow higher and without being monitored ? I find this terribly hypocritical from a Democrat mayor who is supposed to care about environmental impact. I noticed they didn’t talk too much about that aspect of said agreement. I wonder why ??? Pretty soon they will be erecting a chair lift to the top of the mountain and sell lift tickets !