Five member communities renew contract with Covanta Energy

Five member communities renew contract with Covanta Energy

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Five area municipalities under contract to send waste to Covanta Energy’s transfer station in Wallingford have opted to renew their agreement with Covanta for five years after exploring other options. 

The municipalities — Meriden, Wallingford, Cheshire, North Haven, and Hamden — decided renewing with Covanta made the most sense financially after hiring a consultant last year to explore other options. 

Municipal officials said the $70 per ton fee to dispose of trash at the Wallingford plant is among the lowest in the state. They also cited the central location for the five towns involved.

“Quite frankly, when you look at the comparison of other transfer stations and their tipping fees, this is by far the least expensive of the transfer stations” in close proximity, Meriden City Manager Tim Coon said.

Some transfer stations in the geographical area charge upwards of $80 to $90 per ton, according to North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda, who chairs a board overseeing the regional trash partnership.

The five municipalities collectively send about 50,000 tons of trash to the transfer station annually. They are currently under a 20-year contract with Covanta that is set to expire in July 2020. The contract includes two five-year renewal options and gives the towns a deadline of June 30 to notify Covanta of their intent. 

The towns hired a consultant last year to review the current contract and identify possible alternatives. The review, officials said, concluded the current agreement was the most viable option. 

‘Working well’

“It would appear we have something that’s working well and there aren't obvious other choices available,” said Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.

Dickinson said there were many “unknowns” associated with changing trash processors including rising fees, dwindling trash capacity and uncertainty in the recycling market.

“There’s just a lot of change and new circumstances…and to try to spend money on looking further at something, it just doesn't seem in our interest if we’re receiving good service and” comparatively low tipping fees, Dickinson said. 

Earlier this year, Covanta assigned its contract for the operation of the Wallingford transfer station to another entity — Country Holdings LLC — meaning Covanta essentially subcontracted operation of the facility.

The change in management will not affect the towns’ current agreement with Covanta, officials said, adding they felt comfortable renewing given the new management.

A Covanta spokesman didn’t return a request for comment Monday. 

In the past, Covanta has expressed a desire to shut the Wallingford station because it has seen a declining volume of trash, making it less profitable.

In 2016, Covanta proposed closing the Wallingford transfer station and moving its trash processing from Wallingford to the company’s trash-to-energy facility in Bristol. Despite financial incentives offered by Covanta, the five municipalities rejected the offer.
Twitter: @MatthewZabierek