The Penobscot Energy Recovery Company in Orrington, pictured on June 21. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A company based in the southern U.S. has made a winning bid for the foreclosed Orrington trash incinerator during a third auction for the facility on Tuesday.

That company, C&M Faith holdings, made the winning bid of $1.2 million for the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. plant. Its short term goal is to restart the facility and resume accepting trash from area communities.

In the longer term, the group hopes to incorporate a newer waste technology that converts the gas generated by decomposing waste into electricity, according to its owners.

Tuesday’s auction was the third attempt to sell the plant in recent months, after one auction failed to get a single bid and another purchase fell through after buyer Delta Thermo Energy decided not to pay the required 10 percent of the sale.

The winning bid on Tuesday, $1.2 million, was less than 10 percent of the assessed value of PERC, which is about $13 million for tax purposes. The plant owes about $765,000 in real estate and personal property taxes.

PERC stopped operations May 2, but continued accepting trash from Orrington residents until it became full in early September. That trash is now going to the state-owned Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town instead. Around 30 employees were furloughed in September.

The winning bidder, C&M Faith Holdings, is owned by Bill Richardson from Little Rock, Arkansas and Mark Boswell from Sarasota, Florida.

After the auction, Boswell told reporters that he hopes to get PERC winterized and bring the furloughed employees back, but he was not sure when the plant will be able to start accepting trash again as they have to deal with the 10,000 tons of trash already in the plant.

In the longer term, Boswell said he wants to start incorporating his company’s technology for turning waste gas into electricity, which he hopes will cut down how much trash needs to go into landfills.

That technology is now being used at a plant in Kentucky, Boswell said. More information wasn’t immediately available about how the approach would work.

Boswell and Richardson have visited PERC multiple times and respect the knowledge of its employees, they said.

“When these plants collapse, then that hurts our industry and our waste energy business,” Boswell said. “We don’t want to see that. Not only are we wanting to save this plant, but we want to put these fine people back to work.”

The town of Orrington voted Monday to waive the foreclosure of PERC’s 2021 taxes. Instead of a due date of Nov. 22, the buyer has a year to pay them, Town Manager Chris Backman said.

A lot of the trash has “decomposed significantly,” Plant Manager Henry Lang said. There is cleanup that needs to happen. The trash can still be burned, but it would take a lot of fuel oil and the plant’s emissions would be high, he said.

The plant had a fire Nov. 6 caused by spontaneous combustion in the trash as it heated up. Some trash had been taken out of the plant and was sitting in an uncovered pile Tuesday. Part of the roof was charred and black.  

It will take time to get people back from furlough and get everything going again, but the auction was a step forward, Lang said.

“I’m really hoping this is a long term, viable option for our plant,” Lang said.

PERC, a 40-acre facility located off of River Road, also known as Route 15, had been taking waste from 44 communities and commercial waste haulers in recent years.

The trash was burned to make electricity, and the facility burned 315,000 tons of trash in 2017, its last year of full operations.

Marie Weidmayer is a reporter covering crime and justice. A recent transplant to Maine, she was born and raised in Michigan, where she worked for MLive, covering the criminal justice system. She graduated...