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Trash incineration plant closes for good

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The trash incineration plant at Bondi's Island in Agawam, Massachusetts in an undated photo

Trash from the greater Springfield area is now being transported to Connecticut for disposal

A regional trash incinerator that operated in greater Springfield, Massachusetts for more than 30 years has been permanently shut down.

The decommissioning of the trash incinerator at Bondi’s Island in Agawam has made the air cleaner for all but left some with higher bills for the disposal of their solid waste.

A bankruptcy sale resulted in the facility changing hands last month. The new owner, USA Hauling and Recycling of Enfield, is now using the property as a transfer station to truck trash from about two dozen municipalities in Massachusetts to incinerators in Connecticut.

There has been no disruption in trash collection, said Springfield DPW Director Chris Cignoli.

“Our operations as a city DPW does not change,” he said. “From a resident perspective nothing changes.”

Speaking at a meeting of the City Council’s Maintenance and Development Committee, Cignoli said because of an agreement with another company that operates the city-owned landfill, which is also located at Bondi’s Island, there will be no net increase in what it costs the city to dispose of its trash.

“That cannot be said for other municipalities around the region and for private haulers,” Cignoli said, adding businesses could be looking at a 25 percent increase in the cost of trash disposal.

One of the municipalities facing higher trash disposal costs is the city of Greenfield. Because of having to sign a new contract at a higher fee, Greenfield officials earlier this month said the prices for trash bag stickers for its residential collection program would increase by 50 cents to $3 for a 33-gallon bag and by 25 cents to $2 for a 13-gallon bag.

City Councilors in Springfield said the shutdown of the incinerator appears to be good news for city residents, on balance.

Councilor Jesse Lederman said there almost certainly will be an improvement in air quality.

“The shutdown of the actual incinerator is welcome news, in my opinion,” Lederman said.

Lederman, the chair of the Maintenance and Development Committee and a longtime environmental activist, said the operational change at Bondi’s Island is a good time for the city to update its solid waste master plan.

“What we want to look to is giving people more options in waste management,” Lederman said. “Our goal should be to reduce waste as much as we can.”

The city sends about 47,000 tons of trash annually to Bondi’s Island. Previously, all of it was burned and the ash put into the city-owned landfill. Now, Cignoli said there are no plans to return the ash from the out-of-state incinerators back to the local landfill. It’s estimated the Bondi’s Island landfill had about 10 years before it would be filled.

About 8,000 tons of recyclables is collected by the city each year. Disposal fees skyrocketed in 2019 when markets for recyclable materials in China collapsed. The supply chain issues that arose during the pandemic have resulted in the city making some money back on the recyclables it collects, said Cignoli.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.