Waste at the Coastal Resources of Maine facility in Hampden on a conveyor belt heading towards a trommel, which separates materials by size and weight. Credit: Sam Schipani / BDN

The two entities working to restart a shuttered Hampden trash plant need more time to iron out their arrangements after the company they were relying on to lead the operation withdrew late last month.

Still, they’re optimistic the plant can restart next year, though it will be at a higher cost than they earlier predicted. And a lot needs to happen before the plant that closed more than two years ago is back up and running.

CS Solutions withdrew as the facility’s operator following Bangor Daily News coverage that highlighted its roots in a New Hampshire-based investment company that came to Maine more than a decade ago, pledging to reopen the Katahdin region’s two paper mills and start a facility making wood pellets that could serve as a coal substitute. 

That investment company, Cate Street Capital, restarted the East Millinocket paper mill for about two-and-a-half years, but the Millinocket mill lay dormant. The wood pellets plant slated for Millinocket never came to fruition. Cate Street benefited from tens of millions of dollars in state and federal tax breaks in the process. Both Cate Street and its papermaking subsidiary, Great Northern Paper, have filed for bankruptcy protection.

CS Solutions was expected to work under the Municipal Review Committee and its prospective financial partner, Revere Capital Advisors, to restart the Hampden waste plant. The Municipal Review Committee represents the 115 Maine communities that used the Hampden plant in the six months it ran before its May 2020 shutdown. The group formally acquired the plant last month after no other qualified bidders came forward earlier this year.

After securing ownership of the facility, the Municipal Review Committee signed a 60-day agreement with Revere to exclusively discuss reopening the shuttered Hampden facility. The New York-based Revere was to become a majority owner of the plant.

That period of exclusivity ends on Monday, and the Municipal Review Committee will likely approve extending it for another 30 to 45 days, said Karen Fussell, president of the committee’s board.

The window of exclusivity was meant to allow the Municipal Review Committee and Revere to craft a reopening plan, and for Revere to formally acquire a majority stake. But following CS Solutions’ withdrawal, Revere needs more time to come up with a facility operator and reopening plan, Fussell said.

“We’re still very much in hopes that we’ll be able to come to an arrangement for a partnership with Revere Capital Advisors,” Fussell said. “But the timing of things has not met that schedule, in part because of CS Solutions’ pullout from the project. That set them back a bit.” 

While there was no firm date or deadline set for the facility’s reopening, the Municipal Review Committee remains optimistic the plant will be up and running sometime in 2023, Fussell said. 

“I would say we’re still hopeful that we could begin taking waste in 2023,” she said. “That would still be objective.” 

Despite the setback caused by CS Solutions pulling out, Fussell said the Municipal Review Committee is pleased with Revere Capital, and confident it will chart a successful course for the beleaguered facility. 

“We really, really want this to work,” she said. “Without this facility in this region, this region is hard up without another waste solution. Revere is super. They’re still very committed to the project, which we are very pleased to know, even after losing their operator.”

While the shuttered Hampden plant continues to sit idle, Fussell said Revere recently found that the cost to revive the facility is likely to exceed initial estimates. 

The Municipal Review Committee earlier estimated that it would cost around $20 million to reopen the facility. However, inflation and the findings from a new, in-depth review of the facility initiated by Revere mean the price will be higher, according to Fussell, but she didn’t say by how much. 

“It’s no surprise that it’s going to cost more than was originally envisioned because we had been working off of the profit improvement plan that was developed back in 2020,” she said. “So we knew it was going to be more, but we’re pleased because while it will cost more it’s not out of the realm of possibility.” 

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...