4 Comments for this article

Tags: , , , , , ,


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County is trashing a plan a deal to get the county’s solid waste incinerator back up and running. But the ongoing discussion about what to do with garbage has cost the taxpayers a pretty penny.

For months New Hanover County Commissioners have explored paying Covanta Energy millions of dollars to refurbish the old WASTEC incinerator.

But county staff has informed the company that deal is dead.

“The way it looks, that is indeed the case,” said Commissioner Jonathan Barfield. “I’m not sure where we’re going from here, but previous boards have gone through this process of looking at all the options out there, and we had to deal with R3, which fell through.”

For now all county trash will go into the landfill. Barfield thinks it makes more sense to use the idle incinerator than just expand the dump.

“We’re going to spend roughly $27-30 million to expand the landfill over the time period we’re looking at,” Barfield said. “It would cost us the same thing to refurbish WASTEC. It would more than double the time of our landfill if we would do that. We really can’t build another landfill in this area. We have to determine what we are going to do with our trash here locally.”

County staff will study what to do with solid waste, but Barfield is not impressed with the so-called high tech solutions.

“To me they’re all pie-in-the-sky things; almost like R3,” he said. “I’ve heard so many different proposals from different companies from all over the country trying to handle our solid waste here. Everything from squirting enzyme into the trash and making it eat things up to R3, and again, there’s no new cutting-edge technology that’s out there.”

The StarNews reports documents fro the county’s accounting department show the county has spent $409,723.06 so far on finding a solid waste solution and still owes $93,856.27 on contracts involved in the process.

Comment on this Story

  • taxpayer

    Jonathan Barf-field is always ready to throw good money after bad. I’m guessing he’s a paid consultant to our City Council on how to spend money on bad ideas.

  • Vog46

    Blowing half a million on the ball park “independent” study to the County Commission spending half a million on this .
    It’s no big deal………..not for them anyway.
    Well they HAD a building and the technology set up all they had to do was refurbish it and they could continue to incinerate SOME of our trash.
    Nope they gotta start all over again.
    The faster they go the more behind-er they get.

    Now we are going to expand our landfill and risk polluting the water table that is so vital for local farmers…….


  • Dorothy Favor

    I can tell you from first hand experience Covanta Energy is the best thing that ever happened to trash!

  • John Reardon

    The County representative is right about the smoke and mirrors that firms put out related to how they can handle municipal waste and make it into a renewable energy source. R3 was a local community group that had at least one of these big firms in the background telling them they could finance the project and provide the technology needed and contracts. They quietly exited with R3 down payment/retainer funds while the County and R3 took the heat. The R3 group was local people who believed the message and lost millions on it. The background group was real national types and some of their names you will know from current national news who continue selling the concept across the Country. None have been built yet or interconnected to electrical systems economically.
    The national group makes money because the County is forced to guarantees the project debt and the contracts for the waste and energy.
    Waste to Energy is a simple concept as a business. Municipal waste is separated into two groups, recyclables and non-recyclables. Recyclables have a market and create cash flow; non-recyclables do not and go to landfills or incinerators. Both are cost/expense centers that do not make money but cost money to operate. The non-recyclables contain water, heavy metals and all kinds of stuff in the materials. In incineration you pull the water out if you can and burn it. But the burn is irregular and very energy intense. It cost a lot of money to incinerate and contain the burn off. Counties and Municipalities like Hanover incinerate at a heavy cost to municipal budgets. They try to offset these cost by converting the burning energy to steam and create electricity from it at a very low level. This is added cost so you can see this is not cheap electricity. Then once the electricity is created it has to be delivered over the lines to users. The electricity inter-connect then has to be paid for, another cost. Remember the burning of waste produces BTUs all over the place so the electricity is dirty inconsistent as they call it in the industry and not clean another major problem for users receiving it. So why do communities try so hard to do waste to energy projects …because it cuts down on landfills and accumulation of all that waste and expense. I applaud them for that.
    So on the R3 proposal the thing that was unique came from the local group at R3 it was taking the low value waste and cleaning it with steam, removing the water and then compressing the waste into tight bails. When placed in the incinerator this bail would produce a high and consistent BTU. That was unique and made a lot of sense. Besides you could store the bails as dry bails or sell and ship the bails to other recycling centers if you chose not to incinerate them in Hanover County.
    So why did the R3 deal fail, first the County didn’t control the waste the haulers did and they make money on the recyclables and doing landfills not incinerators or electricity, second the large utility would buy the new power produced at market rates which was way under cost of production rates for the energy/electricity created another non-winner, and finally to upgrade the incinerator and electrical product plant and electrical lines the cost numbers got bigger and did not work. These projects work for bragging rights but not for go government and good business economic models.
    So before you shot the locals and R3 you should have all the facts. In the end the national financial group that was going to back R3 who left in the night with about $500,000 left because they saw R3 was not buying the line and Robin Grathwol wanted her money back and wanted them to go before the County to meet with the County reps. They did not and you know the rest of the story.
    I hope the communities, politicians like Commissioner Jonathan Barfield and people like the Grathwol family continue to look for solutions as I will and at some time we find the technology and approach that does work. That is what we all want isn’t it.


Related News