The $105 Million Incinerator Question CARROLL COUNTY

November 03, 1993

Ogden Projects, a New Jersey-based builder and operator of waste-to-energy plants, is chomping at the bit to build another plant in Maryland, in addition to one it is putting up in Montgomery County. The company has made a pitch to the Howard County Council, and in December, will mount a similar sales effort to Carroll County's waste-to-energy committee.

The committee and the county commissioners should listen to what Ogden has to say, but should keep in mind that what is good for Ogden may not be good for the county or its taxpayers.

Using state-of-the-art furnace technology and emission controls, Ogden has built and operates 24 large incinerators around the country, including one in Lancaster County, Pa., that has an insatiable appetite for garbage. Not only does the plant burn all of the Lancaster's solid waste, but Ogden must mine the county's landfill for garbage to keep the incinerator running efficiently.

To benefit from economies of scale, Ogden wants to build a plant that will burn 1,500 tons a day. Because Carroll only produces about 450 tons of trash daily, the remainder would have to come from outside the county.

Carroll residents may not like the idea of importing garbage from the outside. However, regional solutions to waste-disposal problems are inevitable -- and cheaper for taxpayers. Why not share this heavy financial burden with others?

The financing costs will be considerable. Ogden spent $105 million to build the Lancaster plant. A similar plant in Carroll is likely to cost more. Once that plant is built and the bonds floated to finance it, Odgen will have to operate it until the bonds are paid off. That could be a two- or three-decade commitment.

In Lancaster, Ogden has used the revenue from tipping fees -- the price haulers pay the firm to take their garbage -- to pay off the bonds that financed the plant. How will these fees compare to tipping fees for other waste disposal methods such as recycling, composting or transporting Carroll's trash to an incinerator in another county?

When Ogden makes its presentation next month, members of the Waste-to-Energy committee should be prepared to ask some tough questions. Before Carroll obligates substantial sums of money, the benefits to Carroll taxpayers should be made crystal clear.

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