Covanta, Haverhill Reach Agreement on Extending Disposal Pact; Note Imminent Closing of Ash Landfill

Covanta Haverhill in Ward Hill. (Courtesy photograph.)

Covanta will continue taking Haverhill’s trash for up to another decade on terms favorable to the host city even as the energy-from-waste company makes plans to close its ash landfill.

The Haverhill City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to extend its solid waste host agreement with Covanta Haverhill that dates back to the 1980s. The most recent contract expired about a year ago and the two sides continued negotiating under a one-year extension. Attorney Michael A. Leon of Nutter McClennen & Fish, representing the city, told councilors an agreement was reached a few weeks ago.

“The new agreement is now good for 10 years. This is a rather unusual contract because it locks in a schedule of solid waste disposal costs with the host payments that are due to the city from Covanta. The solid waste disposal cost is scheduled and capped. Under the first year of the contract, we would pay $65 a ton and it would ratchet up. However, for every increase that we experience in the rate, we increase the host payment and the overall economic benefit to the city continues to increase over the 10-year period,” he said.

Leon said the city will earn net revenue of $1.25 million plus an additional $250,000 in taxes in the first year alone. The new contract is good for five years with an option for the city to renew for another five years if it desires. Covanta cannot refuse renewal. Besides Haverhill, another 20 or so communities and several commercial haulers bring refuse to Covanta.

Leon pointed out that the ash landfill portion of  the 100 Recovery Way complex is closing within the next 12 to 18 months, meaning the residue will be hauled away to another site.

Council President Melinda E. Barrett asked if the change means more trucks traveling on Haverhill roads. Leon responded the city can enforce the use of a dedicated access ramp directly off Interstate 495.

Reached after the meeting, Covanta’s Area Asset Manager Mark Van Weelden told WHAV the ash landfill could close early next year as it reaches capacity, and only about 15 additional daily truck trips are expected. Each truck is counted twice—once for inbound and the other for outbound. “In terms of trucks in and out of site, it will be minimal once they start hauling offsite,” he said.

Van Weelden told WHAV what’s involved in closing the ash landfill.

“When we actually close, meaning that we are at DEP’s (Department of Environmental Protection’s) level, we will actually put a GeoCover over it.” He explained that while the textile cover is more expensive, it reduces erosion potential and is easier to maintain.

Councilor Timothy J. Jordan, among others, pointed out Covanta’s many civic activities and donations in support of local needs.

Van Weelden said the company appreciates Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s and the City Council’s “continued trust in our employees and our operations. This new 10-year host agreement represents Covanta’s long-term commitment to the city and the residents of Haverhill.

In an unrelated matter, the Council voted to renew the city's licensing with Plum Island Kayak to operate its kayak rental business on the Merrimack River on property adjacent to the Phoenix Row Parking Lot off of Washington Street.

There is a tentative starting date of July 10. The contract is in effect through Sept. 27. (Due to incorrect information supplied by the city, an earlier version of this story incorrectly mentioned Plum Island Kayak would also introduce paddleboats this season).

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