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At least nine towns will soon exit MIRA trash collaborative

The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority trash-to-energy plant in Hartford, Conn.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public
The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority trash-to-energy plant in Hartford, Conn.

Officials at the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority said Tuesday that at least nine towns have announced plans to cut ties with the agency in the coming months.

Bloomfield, East Hampton, Ellington, Hartford, Naugatuck, Thomaston, Watertown, Manchester and Wethersfield have all announced they will leave the regional trash collaborative, which annually burns hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage from around 50 towns in Connecticut.

Peter Egan, director of operations and environmental affairs at MIRA, announced the departures Tuesday to members of the state’s Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

“As I sit here today – the end of March – I can’t tell you whether we’re going to run the facility next year for a year, for a few months, we’re just not certain,” Egan said. “We will have this certainty in about a month.”

Once a destination for hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage from dozens of towns across the state, MIRA’s trash-burning plant on the banks of the Connecticut River in Hartford has been plagued with mechanical issues and rising costs in recent years.

MIRA officials originally announced the plant would close by July but then postponed that date after struggling to finalize a trash hauling agreement with a private company.

MIRA annually affords municipalities the opportunity to break contracts after new disposal fees are announced. The deadline for towns to decide is April 8.

“So by April 8, we’ll know who’s in and who’s out for the upcoming fiscal year,” Egan said. “Based on what we know is leaving our system now, it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to operate the facility for 12 more months. It’s also unlikely we’re going to shut the facility down on July 1.”

Last year, East Hartford, North Branford and Roxbury all left MIRA. The agency’s biggest municipal customer, the city of Hartford, had already announced it planned to exit the collaborative in the coming months, citing rising costs and the plant’s uncertain future.

Egan said additional towns are considering leaving the trash collaborative. He said those decisions will influence future operations as MIRA management works to shutter the agency’s trash-burning plant.

“We will continue to operate the waste to energy plant as long as we need to to provide for a controlled, deliberate transition,” Egan said.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.

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