The head of a trash-to-energy plant in Hartford says its ability to stay operational is “in doubt.”
During an informational meeting with member towns on Wednesday, Tom Kirk, head of the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, said the aging waste-to-energy plant on the banks of the Connecticut River is struggling.
“It’s a nonsustainable situation such that in a couple of years the plant will either be shut down, or will shut itself down,” Kirk said.
MIRA, which is more than 30 years old, handles trash for 51 Connecticut towns, providing about one-third of the state’s solid waste disposal. But its future remains an open question.
Past mechanical failures led to shutdowns and piles of garbage accumulating at the plant, which then needed to be hauled out of state. And a recent deal to renovate the plant has stalled over disagreements about paying for an anticipated $330 million price tag.
Kirk said he wants to get member towns to commit to the development deal by mid-2020, but price remains a sticking point.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he doubts the state would foot that $330 million bill through bonding or energy credits during a non-budget year. That could leave towns on the hook.
Bronin said other options like “pay as you throw” programs, which charge customers directly for the trash they throw out, could reduce the amount of trash people put in the barrel and “eliminate the need for a MIRA altogether.”
“Part of my eagerness to look for alternatives comes from the fact that I think this is a strategic mistake for the state,” Bronin said. “I think we’re pursuing this particular site for the reason that many of us in municipal government despise most, which is because it’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Kirk said if a redevelopment deal fails, trash that the plant is contracted to take would likely end up in landfills in Ohio, New York or Virginia.