Waste-to-energy loves company

March 31, 1995

Now that a company that builds waste-to-energy plants is on record recommending against building one of its plants in Carroll County -- talk about a non-endorsement -- the idea of investing public money in such an operation in Carroll should finally be put to rest. The county commissioners and others looking into the solid waste disposal question now can focus on more realistic and economically-feasible solutions.

Executives from Ogden Martin Systems, a New Jersey company that operates 25 waste-to-energy plants across the nation, were rather blunt. Carroll County does not generate enough garbage to fuel one of its plants. To operate on an efficient and economic basis, an Ogden plant requires 500 tons of trash a day. Carroll generates only about 300 tons a day. Ogden's executives instead recommended development of a transfer station to ship trash out of the county.

Rather than commit the county to a composting plant, as Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown favors, or a smaller incinerator, as Commissioner Donald I. Dell supports, Carroll should seriously explore participating in a regional waste disposal project. For too long, Carroll's officials ignored efforts to develop regional solutions for garbage disposal. Now, it is in their best interest to participate in a metropolitan approach to waste disposal. At a time when many large incinerators can't find enough trash to burn, Carroll's 300 tons of waste could be a valuable contribution to an efficient, affordable regional incinerator.

Unfortunately, because Baltimore County last year unilaterally decided to send its trash to Pennsylvania, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke pocketed his support for revamping the Pulaski incinerator without ample garbage to operate it efficiently. If agreement on a regional incinerator can't be reached, Carroll's commissioners could explore the possibility of entering into a long-term contract to sell garbage to the highest bidder. The county would have to build nothing more than a transfer station. Ogden has already indicated it would be a willing buyer of Carroll's garbage. Other companies and local governments may be interested in obtaining Carroll's solid waste.

Unless circumstances change dramatically, Carroll's solid waste disposal options are a lot clearer than they were a few years ago. Certainly, the county cannot solve its solid waste needs alone. Officials have to begin to broaden their scope outside Carroll's boundaries.

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