Five municipalities under contract to send trash to Covanta Energy’s transfer plant in Wallingford are considering whether to renew their contract or pursue other options.
The contract between Covanta and the municipalities — Wallingford, Meriden, Cheshire, Hamden and North Haven — has a renewal option in 2020, however, the municipalities must notify Covanta whether they want to renew by June 30, 2019, according to Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone.
Officials from each municipality are currently discussing whether they should hire an outside consultant who would “give us some guidance for whether or not there are other options than renewal,” Milone said. Officials would put the consulting services out to bid, Milone added.
“We’ve just begun discussions with Covanta to determine what the future will be of the transfer station in Wallingford,” said North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda, who chairs a regional municipal solid waste policy board with representatives from the five municipalities.
The five towns annually send around 54,000 tons of solid waste to the 10-acre Covanta transfer station, located on South Cherry Street.
Milone said Covanta is also considering whether to “assign” their contract with the towns, essentially turn the facility over to a third party, or ask the municipalities for an amendment to the contract. Milone said the towns will have a better idea of Covanta’s plans at the board’s next meeting on April 11.
Covanta approached the five municipalities in 2016 to propose closing the Wallingford transfer station and moving its trash processing from Wallingford to the company’s trash-to-energy facility in Bristol.
As part of the proposal, Covanta offered financial incentives, but municipalities rejected the offer because they said the incentives did not outweigh the higher costs to haul trash to a location farther away.
Covanta wanted to shut down the Wallingford plant because the station has seen a declining volume of trash in past years, making it less profitable.
Covanta’s contract with the municipalities includes a clause that allows Covanta to shut down the Wallingford station if the annual waste tonnage falls below 48,000 tons.
“Right now we’ve got a pretty good cushion,” Freda said of the tonnage, which is between 54,000 and 55,000.