HAMPDEN, Maine — Residents and others continued to raise concerns this week about the potential harm of a proposed waste-to-energy facility.
Wednesday’s hearing was the third held so far as part of the local planning board’s review of the Municipal Review Committee and Fiberight LLC’s joint application for site plan and conditional use approval for a $69 million plant.
Concerns that the proposed facility might emit odor and lead to increased truck traffic dominated the first two sessions on April 13 and May 11. Because a decision has yet to be made, hearings will continue on June 8.
On Wednesday, after project proponents ran through where they were with regard to the height, setback, traffic, stormwater and other standards they need to meet in order to obtain local approval for the project, members of the public returned to the podium, most of them to object to the Fiberight plant.
During the meeting, Mike Robson and Jim Hornbrook, both of whom live in the Main Trail neighborhood, were among several residents who spoke in opposition to the project, saying it was not a good fit for Hampden and that it should be located elsewhere.
Hornbrook called for a moratorium on the project, but no action was taken.
Rich Armstrong was among the few residents who so far have spoken in support of the project to the planning board.
“I love this town — it’s a great town. I am for this town. I’ve been paying taxes myself for 25 years,” he said. He added, however, that the town’s tax burden likely isn’t going to get any lighter.
“This project is going to bring in income that we need to this town,” he said of the Fiberight plant. “We need to look at this project in term of what is right with it versus what is wrong with it. We need to look at this carefully. I understand that there’s a lot of people here who have a different point of view. As for me, I’m just looking at the facts. Our expenses are going to go up. We need more tax base.”
Fiberight LLC CEO Craig Stewart-Paul also spoke in favor of the project, noting that he and his company have listened to local concerns and have made changes as a result of them.
He also said that a great deal of thought has gone into the design of the Hampden plant and that the company has undergone an intensive application process with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and expects to receive its state approvals soon.
“We want to be part of this community and good corporate citizens,” he said. “Listening to some of the concerns, I recognize that if you have a house in this neighborhood, the only way for me to prove you won’t be smelling [the plant] is to operate it.”
The Municipal Review Committee and its Maryland-based partner, Fiberight LLC, are proposing to build a 144,000-square-foot waste processing facility with an attached 9,800-square-foot administration building. The facility would be accessed by a new road to be built off Coldbrook Road.
At the plant, Fiberight plans to use technology that will change organic materials in trash into biogas after the glass, metal, paper and plastic are recycled. Biogas is similar to natural gas.
The MRC, a nonprofit representing the trash disposal needs of 187 Maine cities and towns, and Fiberight entered a partnership after a three-year search for companies to handle the trash load after MRC’s contract with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. expires in 2018.
Critics have questioned the technology Fiberight is proposing, arguing it’s untested in the United States.
Fiberight says that while the Virginia facility is the only one operating in the U.S., such plants are commonplace and successful in Europe.