Incinerator closure fought amid fears of growing dump

With Broward County officials set to make a decision on the closure of the North Broward waste-to-energy facility at a meeting on March 3, Coconut Creek is gearing up to ensure that the proposal is not approved.

The city has asked residents to attend the meeting or contact county officials to oppose Waste Management’s proposal. The city fears that the approval of the proposal would result in more trash being dumped on Monarch Hill, thus affecting the quality of life of people living in the region.

“We are going to fight it until the end; we have hired two experts to help us on the issue,” Mayor Becky Tooley said. “We want the county to study the issue before making a decision. This affects the lives of so many people.”

Coconut Creek currently has an agreement in place with Waste Management that household garbage will be diverted from the Monarch Hill landfill into a waste-to-energy plant. However, the volume of trash at the landfill has only increased during the last two years.

Waste Management wants to close the north waste-to-energy facility and use it as a waste transfer station for hauling the garbage from the northern part of the county to the south waste-to-transfer facility. People living in the region however fear that county approval for the trash company’s proposal would result in more trash being dumped.

Meanwhile, the Coral Springs City Commission has decided to send an official letter to the county demanding that the city be included in all future discussions on the subject. Rich Michaud, the city’s public works director, was among those who spoke when the item came up for discussion at the Coral Springs County Commission workshop last week.

There is a provision in the agreement that is now before the county commission that two-thirds of all the cities that deliver trash to the north plant should approve the closure of the plant, Michaud said. The city has not been involved in any discussions between county staff and Wheelabrator on the issue, he added.

The closure of the north waste-to-transfer facility will not affect Coral Springs much in the short term, Michaud told city officials.

The city would continue to get waste-to-energy credit, thus moving closer to its goal of 75 percent recycling by 2020, if trash is hauled from the proposed north waste transfer station to the south incinerator, he added.

The proposed closure of the north incinerator will have long-term ramifications for cities in the county, Michaud said. “There is also a provision in that agreement concept that after the lease agreement expires, which could be as early as eight-and-a-half years from now, they could demolish the south waste-to-energy plant. That would default every city in the county to land filling. That is something we all need to be concerned about.”

“We are not just bystanders,” Mayor Skip Campbell said. “I hope that the county gets that message and that they will include Coral Springs in further discussions.”

“I am glad we are stepping in,” said Commissioner Dan Daley. “It is important, and we can’t just sit back. It is not just Coconut Creek that is affected; it is us, as well.”

In 2013, 10 cities signed up with Sun Bergeron for waste disposal, while 15 continued to take the waste to the Wheelabrator waste-to-energy plants. In August last year, the company informed the county that there was not enough trash being generated from its partner cities to keep both of the plants open. Wheelabrator, which was a part of Waste Management until July last year, has since been sold to Energy Capital Partners for $1.94 billion.

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

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