Video: Board of Public Works Discusses Scope of Waste Management Alternatives Study at 1/21/09 Special Meeting

At 8am on January 21, Northampton’s Board of Public Works met to discuss a Waste Management Alternatives study proposed by HDR Engineering. Here is a Google video of the entire meeting. The video is 2 hours and 31 minutes long, and was recorded by Adam Cohen. You’ll notice some intermittent fan noise. We did our best to minimize this in postprocessing.

Selected highlight:

1:51:12… City Engineer James Laurila: “Part of the problem that we’ve talked about is that we don’t control the waste stream. We don’t have haulage. We’re not Waste Management or Allied. Our facility right now basically works now on market forces… People come to us because we have a market rate tip fee. But if our tip fee were higher, people wouldn’t come to us, and we’re not in the hauling business, so we couldn’t be bringing the waste to our own facility. Which basically means, that the payment of the facility is subject to market forces. If you look at an incineration facility as an example, if you wanted to build an incineration facility, you’re a private enterprise, you wanted to build an incineration facility, if you want to get bonds to build that facility, you need to show the bonding company that you have contracts that guarantee a certain amount of waste, and a certain amount of dollars coming in, a certain tip fee, so that you can pay off those bonds, otherwise you won’t get the bonds. So everything in the business typically is…if you want to get bonds to build a facility typically you’re in better control of your…a stronger control of your waste stream in terms of having contracts and agreed-upon tip fees. The city doesn’t have that right now.”

Board member: “…So for financing this it’s clearly going to be bonds, has to be bonds. We can’t write that check…”

Laurila: “…The city can always float bonds because we have the ability to go back to the basic tax rate to pay bonds back. But, does the city want to do that or do they want to look at other options that wouldn’t involve the potential impact on the tax rate? …This is one of the reasons why the emerging technologies aren’t so great. Because if you do something that results in the payback tip fee being greater than what the market rate is, we don’t control the market. No one will come and…the city won’t be able to pay the bills…

“I think some of this gets back to the question of…Does it make sense to reduce the tonnage and then come up with a small region [that maybe includes] Williamsburg or Easthampton or Hatfield or whatever communities and get them to sign on and then operate a facility with slightly reduced tonnage but you have a guarantee of the tonnage? …There’s the spur of the conversation…”

Below is the proposal from HDR Engineering for a study entitled “Examining Solid Waste Management Alternatives in the City of Northampton”. You may also download the proposal as a PDF. At its January 21 meeting, the Board of Public Works decided to request numerous modifications to this study from HDR.

See also:

Video and Slides: Public Forum on Innovative Approaches to Manage Northampton’s Solid Waste, 11/19/08
City Engineer Jim Laurila gave a presentation on Northampton’s current solid waste management program (PDF, 54KB). He was followed by Gary Liss of Gary Liss & Associates (“Zero Waste to Cool the Planet”, PDF, 975KB) and Alan Cohen of HDR (“Innovative Approaches to Managing Northampton’s Solid Waste”, PDF, 5.9MB)…

Mayor Clare Higgins asserts that the region has a moral obligation to deal with its trash locally. The Valley Advocate
quotes her as saying, “We are providing a regional public service…
Western Massachusetts should deal with Western Massachusetts trash. And
even leaving the region out of the equation, Northampton has to send
its trash somewhere. What are the options? Will we feel good about
ourselves if we ship our trash out of state to a poorer community?”

Liss challenges this notion (1:55:10-1:56:30), saying, “I don’t think
you have to assume that you have to provide landfill capacity. You
could provide transfer capacity. The assumption of having to provide
local capacity was in the 80s, when there was a concern that there
wasn’t going to be disposal capacity available anywhere, and ‘we’re
running out of landfill space’. That was the driver for a lot of the
programs of the 80s and 90s. That doesn’t compute anymore with the
regional haul…

Department of Public Works: Proposed Phase 5 Expansion Information

Saving Paradise: Articles about the Proposed Northampton Regional Landfill Expansion

Gazette: “‘Zero waste’ goal intrigues city residents” (11/20/08)
The city is considering whether to expand the landfill when it reaches
capacity or pursue other options, including a resource recovery program
or a combination of approaches, including composting, anaerobic
digestion, a waste-to-energy plant and gasification. The landfill is
expected to be filled by 2011…

HDR and Stantec Consulting Services were hired by the city in 2007 to
complete a landfill options study, which they are expected to complete
early next year, at which time the Board of Public Works will hold a
fourth forum.

Northampton Redoubt: “Mary Serreze interviews Northampton BPW Chair Dave Reckhow on the proposed landfill expansion” (11/15/08)
Reckhow: “If there are conflicts between waste reduction and the
economics of operating the landfill, we’ll want to examine that. We’ll
need to define our priorities. I believe that we should be reducing our
waste stream. Whether that is compatible with the landfill expansion
has yet to be determined.”

Valley Advocate: “Trash is Good” (10/9/08)
the landfill business, trash is good. Currently Northampton’s Solid
Waste Enterprise Fund relies on 45,000 to 50,000 tons per year in order
to meet budget. If Pioneer Valley residents significantly reduce what
they throw away, the city may move to expand the landfill’s
“wasteshed”–that is, to entice tonnage from other areas. If another
regional facility offers haulers a cheaper alternative, this strategy
may fail. Duseau Trucking has a permit to operate a transfer station in
North Hatfield, with rail access. If, for instance, Duseau were able to
ship our region’s trash to another facility at a lower cost, it is
possible that the Northampton municipal landfill would end up

Video: Department of Public Health Presents Landfill Study