Prince George’s County is considering trucking its trash to a planned incinerator in Frederick County, now that Carroll County is backing out of the project, according to government officials.
Prince George’s County is considering trucking its trash up Interstate 270 to a planned $527-million incinerator in Frederick County, now that Carroll County is backing out of the project, according to government officials.
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners has agreed to look for a new jurisdiction to help pay for the incinerator after their counterparts in Carroll County informed them on June 28 that they want to find another way to dispose of their trash.
Frederick County wants to build the incinerator because its landfill on Reich’s Ford Road in Frederick is at capacity. The county currently hauls all its trash to landfills in Pennsylvania and Virginia at a cost of $57.50 per ton.
Since 2009, Frederick and Carroll counties have been partners in building the "waste-to-energy facility" because it burns trash to produce electricity.
But in 2010, a newly elected board of commissioners in Carroll County took office vowing to pull out of the incinerator deal. In March, a committee was formed to research alternative trash disposal options. A final report will be presented to commissioners in September.
Both counties have now agreed to take steps to end that partnership, which leaves the door open for Prince George’s County.
"Prince George’s County has shown an interest," according to Frederick County Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R).
Young declined to comment further.
Linda M. Lowe, public information specialist with Prince George’s County, said no decision has been made regarding the incinerator.
"I have just been advised that at this time Prince George’s County is in talks with other jurisdictions regarding its solid waste collection, and no decision has been made with Frederick County and or any other county at this moment," Lowe said in an email.
The Prince George’s County landfill disposes of 300,000 tons of trash annually, according to Lowe.
For several years, both Washington and Howard counties have expressed interest in bringing some of their trash to the incinerator, although no agreements have been made.
Prince George’s is the latest county to show interest in the project, which is to be built at the McKinney Industrial Center, south of the city of Frederick and next to the county’s wastewater treatment plant off Buckeystown Pike. It is slated to open in 2015.
"There is already a lot of traffic on Buckeystown Pike, especially in the morning," said Del. Michael J. Hough (R-Dist. 3B) of Brunswick, who is the state legislator for the area. "More trucks going there, and overall, the financials, I’m not sure this is the best deal for Frederick County."
Hough and other people have raised questions over the cost to taxpayers. The Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, an independent agency that helps counties dispose of trash, will own the incinerator. Frederick County will operate it and ultimately be responsible for paying back the debt on the facility.
The waste authority has also built and owns incinerators in Baltimore, Harford and Montgomery counties, and Baltimore city. Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford and Montgomery counties are members of the authority.
In 2010, a $50,000 study commissioned by Frederick County showed that, starting in 2016, one year after the incinerator is expected to open, and through 2036, the county would spend $140 million to operate and pay the debt on the facility.
The study also showed that by 2044, all debt related to the incinerator will be paid off, and, starting in 2046, the county will see its first positive cash flow from the facility of $10 million.
Hough has been opposed to the incinerator, in part because of the cost, and because its smokestack will be visible from the historic Monocacy National Battlefield.
Frederick County Commissioner C. Paul Smith (R), who represents the county on a regional transportation planning board, said he would rather see trucks taking a straight route up I-270 from Prince George’s County, instead of the rural roads that would be used by Carroll County.
"I don’t know how many trucks there will be, but they have to come from somewhere, and the quality of 270 is probably better than if they came from Carroll County," Smith said. "Obviously, driving up during rush hour would be terrible."
The incinerator has been a long-planned project between Frederick and Carroll counties. It is estimated to cost $527 million to build, with Frederick’s share at $316 million — about 60 percent — with Carroll County picking up the remainder. The incinerator would be big enough to burn 1,500 tons of trash per day.
The project is now in the state permitting process, and construction is slated to begin in 2013.
In 2009, Carroll and Frederick counties signed an eight-page agreement outlining several conditions, including what would happen if either county backed out.
The agreement was signed by both counties and the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority.
Under the proposal, Wheelabrator, a New Hampshire-based company that will build the incinerator, will spend up to $3 million for the design and permitting stages of the incinerator.
The agreement stipulates that in the event Carroll or Frederick counties back out of the project, either would be responsible for paying any costs to date up to $3 million.To avoid paying any costs, the remaining county must find another jurisdiction to partner with in the state.
Carroll County has been looking at other trash disposal options and purchasing property for a new landfill. The Frederick County commissioners have agreed to allow Carroll County to look at other options and will themselves look for new a new partner.
"I am confident that Frederick County will find a partner whose needs fit this project and we will be able to satisfy our obligation to Frederick County without having to go forward with the [waste-to-energy] incinerator or a multi-million dollar penalty," Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard said in a news release. "I believe the citizens of Carroll County will be well served by the approach we are taking to this challenge we inherited."
Young said their decision to look for a new partner shows that Frederick County is willing to spare Carroll County the expense of paying $3 million to get out of the contract.
"By doing this we continue to have a good working relationship with Carroll County," he said.