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Waste piles grow since closure of Hampden Fiberight plant

Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 5:14 PM EDT
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Fires like the one that ignited inside a trash pile at Penobscot Energy Recovery Company (PERC) happen infrequently and produce a lot of smoke, but are not usually a major threat thanks to the lack of oxygen inside piles of waste.

“Those are usually deep seated fires. We have to go in and dig them out and put water on them.”

PERC Plant manager Hank Lang says the fire didn’t have any long term impact on operations but the pile of waste that combusted had been sitting for longer than usual.

When the Fiberight plant in Hampden stopped operating at the end of May, 75% of the waste from 115 communities was diverted to PERC, creating a backlog.

“We spent almost three years now changing our operation to deal with a smaller volume of material coming in. We reduced our workforce, changed our processing equipment to make it more efficient.”

Now Lang says the company is working to ramp up capacity with new equipment and employees.

The Municipal Review Committee (MRC) handles waste disposal for those 115 communities, and has an agreement, but no contract, with PERC.

“We’re working with the MRC to negotiate an agreement that goes beyond where we’re at right now. This addition of people and equipment that would take care of a larger volume of waste is kind of a leap of faith for the company.”

Lang is glad that PERC can turn at least some of the waste intended for Fiberight into energy.

“I think that’s a terrific thing in terms of reducing the amount going towards the landfill.”

But he hopes that everyone will do their part to improve the quality of the waste stream.

“I would love for people to learn more about how their recycling works. Just a slew of topics that the average person needs to be aware of. When you dispose of materials you need to dispose of them in a way that is responsible.”

The MRC is still looking for a buyer for the Fiberight facility in Hampden.

At last report the organization hoped to have one in place by late fall.

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