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Judge rules that solid waste treatment company should operate in Berkeley County

March 11, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A company that wants to produce solid refuse fuel from household garbage in Berkeley County should be allowed to do so, a West Virginia Public Service Commission administrative law judge has ruled.

The recommended decision filed Monday grants a certificate of need to Entsorga West Virginia LLC to build and operate a proposed mechanical-biological solid waste management facility near Martinsburg at a cost of about $19 million.

The project, which was officially backed by Berkeley County Council in January and previously endorsed by the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority, could be positioned to provide fuel to burn in the Essroc cement plant’s kiln in 2014, officials have said.

The company aims to build the facility off Grapevine Road on the old county landfill property and lease part of the land there for the operation from the Solid Waste Authority.

The recommended decision signed by Administrative Law Judge Meyishi Pearl Blair allows Entsorga to charge $63 per ton of municipal waste it accepts at the facility, but also orders the solid waste authority and the company to launch a customer education program to insure harmful liquids are not disposed of in the trash and are properly recycled.

Blair’s decision is set to become the public service commission’s final order in the case, barring an exception being filed within 15 days, according to the order.

Solid waste authority Chairman Clint Hogbin, who welcomed Blair’s decision, said the solid waste authority and state regulators have been repeatedly assured by Apple Valley Waste, the Eastern Panhandle’s largest municipal waste hauler, that its customers would not see a rate increase as a result of the new facility.

Hogbin said the education program mandate was expected and noted that oil and antifreeze are already accepted on a daily basis at the solid waste authority’s Grapevine Road recycling center. Paint-collection events also have been held, he said.

Entsorga still must obtain certain permit approvals to keep the project on track, but Hogbin said the hurdles that remain are more routine and less subjective. Hogbin said the solid waste authority must agree on terms of a lease agreement with Entsorga.

The solid waste authority also will decide whether to impose up to a 50-cents-per-ton tax at the facility, which is allowed by state law and is included in the $63 per ton fee authorized in Monday’s decision, according to Hogbin.

Hogbin said he believes the decision by the PSC Monday signals an end to dependence on landfilling as the primary disposal technique in the Eastern Panhandle.

“This is a dynamic change in solid waste management,” Hogbin said.

Hogbin said the project received “absolute stellar” legal support from the Hammer, Ferretti & Schiavoni law firm, and strong backing from county leaders, particularly Berkeley County Council President Anthony J. “Tony” Petrucci.

“Nobody stood taller for us than Mr. Petrucci,” Hogbin said.

Entsorga said in its application with the PSC in June 2012 that the municipal solid waste picked up on curbsides would be screened with a large rotary drum that would tear open trash bags to aerate the garbage.

An air-circulation system would be used to cause rapid composting, and a combination of fresh and recirculated warm air would be used to reduce moisture in the waste, leaving a dry paper-like product, the application said.

Large pieces of plastic, paper and cardboard would be mechanically separated and set aside for the refining stage of the process, and the remaining waste, including organic materials, would go directly to a “bio-stabilization area,” the company said.

The patented technology to be used by Entsorga would be making its U.S. debut after being implemented successfully at facilities in Europe, officials have said. 

The county’s recycling program, which handled about 5,000 tons of traditional recyclable material last year, would about double because of the recovery of items such as metal and glass through Entsorga’s operation. 

Entsorga’s project did not proceed through state and county reviews without objection, including some from the Jefferson County Solid Waste Authority, but Blair found “that there is no credible evidence that support a finding that would require the denial of a certificate for the proposed facility.”

Given the region’s continued growth, the waning life span (about 35 years) of North Mountain Sanitary Landfill near Hedgesville, W.Va., and lack of new suitable landfilling sites, the solid waste authority began exploring alternatives about six years ago, Hogbin said.

“We really felt like we needed to do something different,” Hogbin recalled.

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