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Pittsfield And Crane Weighing Options As Waste Plant Eyes Closure

This is a picture of a dumpster

The city of Pittsfield and a major area business are reviewing their options after a waste-to-energy facility announced plans to close next year.New Jersey-based Covanta Energy Corp. plans to close its Hubbard Avenue facility in March citing economic conditions. According to the company’s website, the plant processes 240 tons of solid waste per day. Pittsfield Department of Public Utilities Commissioner Bruce Collingwood says about a quarter of that comes from the city.

“It is the location where our contracted residential trash hauler takes that trash to that facility where it is burned,” Collingwood said. “We also take the residential recyclables that we collect and they are consolidated at that facility. Then Covanta hauls the recyclables to the Springfield materials recycling facility.”

A spokesperson for Republic Services, Pittsfield’s contracted residential trash hauler, says the company is considering its options and working toward a solution for when the plant closes.

The plant also serves as a residential trash drop-off area. Collingwood says the city’s contract with Covanta requires 150 days written notice of closure, which Pittsfield has not received.

“We are looking options,” Collingwood said. “Luckily there is a strong trash industry and there is a lot of interest. The goal is to keep disposing of our trash in Pittsfield, hopefully at that location.”

Crane Currency is working with the city to maintain waste-to-energy production at the plant. The facility produces steam that is transported to Crane’s Dalton site a few miles away. According to Covanta, the plant has offset 16,000 gallons of oil per day for the sole supplier of currency paper for the federal government for more than 30 years. Rich Rowe, president of U.S. Government Products at Crane Currency, says steam is essential to papermaking.

“Internally we’re looking at package boilers to provide steam relative to typical processes,” Rowe said. “We are completing an engineer study and getting ready to finalize that option. We are also looking and discussing with potential third-party operators who might take over that facility and operate it for them and then for benefit of Crane and for benefit of the city of Pittsfield.”

Rowe says installing the boilers would be a substantial expense.

Collingwood says Covanta’s contract with the city runs until June 30, 2020, but language was added in 2015 about ceasing operations. Although there was some verbal information that came to the city about a closure, Collingwood says it was a surprise. He says the next closest Covanta locations are in Springfield and Canaan, NY. Collingwood says one option is reopening the contract to negotiate a different disposal and residential drop-off location.

In addition, Rowe says Crane is working with State Senator Ben Downing on legislation concerning steam generation being considered in the State House.

“We’re asking for his legislative support for an amendment of an existing waste energy that would then add on this steam generation as an adjunct to that that would allow better economics of this plant.”

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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