April 02, 2020

Residents to hold forum on Old Town landfill

OLD TOWN – A public forum to share concerns and information about Juniper Ridge Landfill, previously the West Old Town Landfill, and the plan for a new company to operate the biomass boiler at the former Georgia-Pacific Corp. mill, will be held this weekend in Old Town.

We the People, a group that opposed the state’s purchase in 2003 of the former G-P landfill, is hosting the forum from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, at the Elks Club at 290 North Fourth St. Extension.

“My hopes are just to get a community awareness of, if our area is going to be the dumping ground for New England, what impacts is it going to have?” Laura Sanborn, a member of We the People, said Tuesday.

Members of We the People have continuously expressed concern that the public had no say in the landfill deal, and now think that the mill sale also was conducted without any public participation.

The landfill sale took place three years ago when the G-P mill previously was faced with closure, making the landfill the first state-owned facility in Maine. Money from the sale was used to purchase and modernize a used biomass boiler designed to cut energy costs.

Despite the effort, G-P announced earlier this year it was closing the facility, but agreed to work with the state to find a buyer.

The purchase and sale agreement was signed last week by state and company officials, and the final closing is scheduled for Oct. 27.

The plan is to have at least four companies operating at the facility within the next couple of years, including Red Shield Environmental. Red Shield is composed of a group of private investors who intend to manage the site and facilitate the operation of the biomass boiler.

“There’s so many questions out there,” Sanborn said. “It would be very nice for the governor and his administration to come out and let us know … if these jobs will be a good, livable income for people.”

Red Shield’s long-range plan is to convert the biomass boiler from producing electricity to making ethanol by burning wood waste.

Tamarack Energy, a renewable-energy developer, is the company that actually will operate the boiler.

The University of Maine also is a player in the operation, and the waste to operate the boiler may come from the Juniper Ridge Landfill.

Ethanol is a substitute for MTBE, methyl tertiary-butyl ether, found in automobile gasoline. MTBE is being outlawed in some places because it allegedly causes cancer and has been found in water supplies.

The other companies that have signed on to bring their businesses to the facility are: Lamtec Inc., a maker of pressure-sensitive labels; and Hallowell International LLC, a low-temperature heat pump manufacturer.

Everyone who wishes to speak at Sunday’s forum will get three minutes to present their views.

There also will be time for explanations and answers if necessary from any involved parties, such as landfill operator Casella Waste Systems Inc.

As for local and state officials who will attend, nothing has been confirmed, Sanborn said.

She noted that the organization has invited “everyone that we could think of that’s been involved in this situation from the governor down through.”

“Communication is the best tool in the world and the lack of it, you know, makes for very unhappy people,” Sanborn said.

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