Is the Incinerator inevitable?

Will Landfill Planning Doom Stafford and Fredericksburg to an Incinerator?

On May 27, 2014, the Free Lance-Star published an article by Vanessa Remmers titled “Landfill Facing $228K Shortfall”.

Current landfill revenue does not cover operational costs nor fund an expansion reserve. Why? Mismanagement and poor planning. The members of the Rappahannock Regional Solid Waste Management Board (R-Board) have done almost nothing to prevent the revenue shortfall, and over the last few years have actually caused landfill revenue to decrease.

The landfill is subdivided into cells. Simply put, each cell requires a hole with a non-porous liner that meets environmental regulations. A new cell, opened in Fall 2013, is expected to be filled by December 2015. At the May 21, 2014 R-Board meeting, Mr. Keith Dayton, Deputy County Administrator, replied to R-Board Chairman, Mr. Paul Milde’s question, stating that the R-Board needed to act immediately to prevent a December 2015 landfill shutdown.

The Stafford Board of Supervisors (BOS) stated it would not subsidize the operational shortfall. R-Board staff recommended options to increase revenue, but most were denied by the R-Board. How did we get to this point?

  • Haulers pay “tipping fees” to dump garbage. These fees, set by the R-Board, are the second lowest in the Region and do not meet the cost to process the garbage. Large-volume haulers receive additional discounts, reducing revenue way below operating costs.
  • Tipping fees had been charged by the ton, but the R-Board changed that to by-the-truckload. Haulers can overload trucks and save money, again, lowering revenue below costs.
  • For individuals bringing waste into the landfill, there are no decals to identify where the garage is from. A decal and $3 charge at the gate would raise over $1 Million, eliminate the entire shortfall, and provide a surplus to fund a new cell reserve.
  • Recycling revenue is down, and closing all 3 local recycling centers reduced recycling. Stafford’s recyclables are not adequately pre-sorted. Companies that take the landfill’s recyclables to sell, get mixed loads. Some recyclables are far less profitable to recycle, and so wholesalers pay significantly less or even reject the delivery, if they are mixed in. Hence, reduced revenue.
  • The landfill methane gas recovery system generates electricity and revenue, but leaky pipes allowed methane to escape, causing lower revenue.

The R-Board made these policy decisions despite knowing that they would decrease revenue, and cause operational funding shortfalls and no money for new cells. The R-Board could have eliminated the shortfall and funded the reserve. Failure to do so benefits private companies at the expense of taxpayers.

Make no mistake about it, Request for Proposals (RFP) # 85144, issued May 30th, is intended to convert landfill operations to an incinerator-based solution, owned and operated by private industry. The R-Board knowingly created a revenue shortfall, changed the permit process to eliminate public scrutiny, and continuously berates opponents saying that we lie to the public. Stating that the landfill will shut down is a blatant attempt to cause panic and ram an incinerator down our throats.

Ponder these:

  • The landfill’s commercial garbage has increased this year by 26%, but billable tonnage increased only 11%; last year, commercial tonnage increased 18% but billable tonnage only 3%; so, more garbage is dumped for less revenue.
  • Tire tonnage is down by 64% from FY 2013, which was down another 35% from FY 2012; this 2-year downward trend coincides with a proposed tire-burning incinerator, where tires would be burned for free. Is it possible they are being stockpiled in anticipation of free disposal? The incinerator awarded in 2013 was only commercially viable if it burned an unlimited amount of tires.
  • Even if an incinerator is built, the landfill will still need to open another cell, as no incinerator can be built, permitted, and made operational before the December 2015 landfill closing deadline. Where will the money come from?

The crisis is real, but manufactured. We need to implement policies that are environmentally sound, do not cause health risks, are sustainable, and which handle all our jurisdiction’s garbage in a cost-effective manner.

No incinerator has been built in the US in the past several decades, despite over 100 industry-driven attempts to do so. No incinerator built with the thermal technologies listed in the RFP has successfully performed anywhere in the US.

Let’s not make Stafford and Fredericksburg the incinerator guinea pig or the tire burning capital of the US.

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