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County continues conversation on Covanta incinerator plan

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New Hanover County Commissioners talked trash again today. They discussed a contract with Covanta Energy to refurbish the county's trash incinerator.

At a cost to the county of about $32 million, Covanta is proposing a 20-year commitment to re-furbish and run what was formerly known as WASTEC.

Right now, the county's landfill is only expected to last for six more years. Commissioners hope Covanta can help extend its life drastically.

The nearly 30-year-old incinerator has been re-branded as a sustainable energy facility.

The board is talking about adding on another $1.8 million of debt to purchase additional scrubbers to reduce mercury emissions.

"It would just be another layer going in there and actually refine the air that's going to go out even more to reduce the particulate matters, whether it's mercury emissions coming out of stacks, and to me it's pretty significant," Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said.

To cover the debt cost, the county would increase tipping fees to about $90 per ton, which comes out to an increase of about $25 a year for residential customers. If the additional scrubbers are added to the cost, tipping fees would increase by 11 more cents.

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WASTEC Numbers don't make sense

If $1.8 million for additional pollution controls adds $.11 to the $90/ton tipping fee, then at that rate the other $32 million would add only $1.95/ton to the current fee. ($32/1.8 X $.11) Is the current tipping fee $88.05/ton? I don't think so.

If the average residence is going to pay $25 more per year, this suggests that the average residence generates more that 12 tons of waste per year ($25/$1.95), or about 490 pounds per week. I don't think so.

$25 represents a 10% increase in my current refuse collection bill. Let's take a guess and say that the tipping fee represents 1/5 of the total cost of collection, with the remainder going to labor, fuel and equipment costs, etc. This implies a 50% increase in tipping costs, not 2.2% ($1.95/$88.05)

What kind of reporting is this, that let's such obviously wrong data go unquestioned, or, perhaps, for accurate information to be reported inaccurately ?

How hard would it be to report the current tipping cost, and better yet to tell us how many tons (or ounces, or milligrams) of mercury are going to be captured with the $1.8 million added investment, and the added operating cost associated with that investment?

This is a serious issue that deserves serious reporting. The fluff needs to be sent to the landfill.

Reporting on Anything

The news sources in this town are horrible. Quality Investigative reporting does not exist in New Hanover County. Excellent points on the figures reported here. WASTEC does not appear to make sense from any perspective. It would be refreshing to see what good reporting would do to this story.