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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Landfill v. Incinerator in Frederick County, MD - What is the Cost-Benefit?

George Wenschhof

A lot of discussion has been taking place in Frederick County, Maryland on how best to handle future waste disposal for the community. We have published columns from Jan Gardner, the President of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners who supports the building of an Incinerator and Kai Haigen the only member of the five person Board who opposes the building of an Incinerator.

Recently, on November 18, Mr. Hagen was given the opportunity to present an alternative to the Board of Commissioners during a special planned public meeting. You may read his very thorough presentation here.

A high level of frustration continued to be evident from all who attended this meeting. Board President Gardner and Commissioner John Thompson repeatedly interrupted Commissioner Hagen as he gave his power point presentation. Their angst appeared generated by what they felt was no new information or alternatives being provided as to how to manage future waste disposal for county residents.

Commissioner Hagen and those who oppose the building of an Incinerator are upset for they feel equal money, time and resources have not been utilized to examine alternatives to the building of a 300+ million Incinerator. The Incinerator will also require a service contract which opponents point out have been extremely costly in other jurisdictions which are using Incinerators.

After watching the presentation, I also was left wondering what was the proposed alternative to a Incinerator. Board President Gardner wrapped up the meeting by requesting Commissioner Hagen present to them in a proposal, exactly what he wants them to study.

However, in fairness to Mr. Hagen, the presentation was very well thought out and appeared to have been set up to handle variables, such as the percentage of movement in the county toward "zero waste" methods and increased recycling efforts that are implemented over time.

Having followed this discussion for a little while, I've learned some new terms and been exposed to new concepts in the area of waste disposal - more so, than I ever intended. I've learned a little about Material Recovery Facilities (MFRs), Resource Recovery Parks, different ways to increase recycling, and waste-to-energy Incinerators.

It appears to me that one of the best ways for the community and their elected officials to decide as to how to move forward in this area is through a cost-benefit analysis which I wrote about in a column dated 11-17-2008. You can read that column here. It is also evident after reading much of the information out there, a new Landfill will be necessary, regardless of whether an Incinerator is built.

It would then follow that what is needed is a cost analysis of an Incinerator with a smaller complementary Landfill. Also needed would be a cost analysis of an appropriately sized Landfill supplemented by an increase in recycling and "zero waste" methods - this option would also include the construction of a Materials Recovery Facility and Resource Recovery Park.

There is a cost associated with both which would be clearly seen after figures were plugged in for these options. It would appear a cost-benefit analysis of these two options would aid the elected officials and the community in this difficult decision making process.


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