LORTON, VA. — Convinced by personal observations that a trash-burning plant can bea clean, efficient producer of energy rather than a smoke-belching, environmentally hazardous eyesore, two county commissioners say they intend to form a citizens committee to begin planning a waste-to-energy facility for county use.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and ElmerC. Lippy, who toured the I-95 Energy/Resource Recovery Facility in Fairfax County, Va., Friday, said they believe the long-term answer toCarroll's solid-waste problems lies chiefly in converting trash to energy through incineration, not in landfill expansion or creation.
"Now's the time to start laying the groundwork," said Lippy. "Most of my doubts were environmental. But the last 10 years, the state of the art has really gone forward."
Dell said the committee, whichwould receive input from private industry, would be formed "with thethought in mind that we will have a waste-to-energy plant. I want tobe aggressive about it and take the position that we're certain it would be beneficial to Carroll County."
Both commissioners acknowledge that building such a facility would be expensive and would take years to obtain the required permits, to overcome likely citizen resistance and to construct. But Dell estimated that it could be done within eight to 10 years, depending on the "attitude" of residents and government leaders.
Private-sector financing and operating deals canbe arranged to reduce the burden on government to provide cash and management up front, said James E. Slater Jr., county Office of Environmental Services administrator, who took the tour.
"We're going topay for it anyhow," said Dell, referring to the high costs and environmental problems associated with landfills. "Industry can come in, and we could pay fees on a monthly basis."
A recently completed study conducted by a quasi-governmental regional waste-disposal agency suggested a variety of options for managing solid waste region-wide, including waste-to-energy facilities, for Carroll, Washington, Frederick and Howard counties.
But the study has been shelved because thejurisdictions have been unable to agree on plans, especially for siting facilities. Carroll probably would seek participation from surrounding jurisdictions and revive the study if the committee is formed, said Slater.
The expansive Fairfax facility is a public-private venture. Fairfax County government contracts with Ogden Martin Systems Inc., a national waste-management company, to operate and maintain the plant. Ogden charges the county a $23-per-ton tipping fee for dumping trash at the 3,000-ton daily capacity plant. The contract restricts the amount the fee can be increased from year to year.
Fairfax government establishes its own financing arrangements with trash haulers. Ogden subsidizes its tipping fee by selling electricity, generated by burning trash, to a Virginia utility. In theory, the reduced tipping fee translates to lower trash bills for government and residents.
The burning process, which uses steam rather than more environmentally harmful fuels for power, produces ash, which is buried at an adjacent landfill. The ash is about 10 percent of the volume of incoming trash, allowing conservation of finite landfill space.
NorthernLandfill, Carroll's main dump, has a life expectancy of about 20 more years, said Slater. The county has considered closing its Hoods Mill Landfill in South Carroll to trash.
Recycling would remain an important component of an integrated solid-waste management system thatincludes a waste-to-energy plant, said Slater.
Carroll generates about 450 tons of trash daily.