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Upgrades Expected, But Connecticut Trash Plant To Continue Burning Garbage

Ryan Caron King
Old aluminum, collected at the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority in Hartford.

An aging trash incinerator located on Hartford’s riverfront will continue to burn garbage in the coming years. But a new developer chosen by the state said it will work to drastically reduce the amount of waste incinerated at the state’s largest trash plant.

The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority takes about one-third of the state’s waste at its Hartford plant. That trash gets burned and turned into electricity.

But the facility is over 30 years old.

"It was actually constructed on a coal fired power plant, which has equipment dating back to the 1950s and 1940s," said Lee Sawyer, with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

That means costly upkeep and system failures.

"When that happens, it creates a backup in the waste system where trash needs to find other destinations to go, so it creates a lot of cost and uncertainty in our overall regional waste system," Sawyer said.

So for the past two years, DEEP has been looking to choose a developer to work with MIRA.

Last week it announced the selection of Sacyr Rooney, a Spanish-U.S. consortium, which will pay for about $229 million in upgrades at the plant. It will also manage day-to-day operations at the facility, which will continue to be owned by MIRA.

Sacyr Rooney’s plan will take about 40 percent of the trash currently coming in the door, and, instead of putting it to flame -- recycle it.

"They’ll be taking out recyclables -- metals, plastic, fiber -- as well as separating out some of the organic components of the waste stream, which they'll be sending for treatment using anaerobic digestion," Sawyer said.

The rest of the trash will still get burned.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said it's a bad use of riverfront land in the city. "This is also another perfect example of non-taxable property being placed by the state in the city," Bronin said. "I'm going to fight as hard as I can to make sure that the city of Hartford and the residents of Hartford are appropriately reimbursed for that."

MIRA’s payment-in-lieu of taxes to the city have recently declined.

"We’d like to see that significantly increase to closer to where it has been in the past -- which is closer to $4.5 or $5 million -- and perhaps higher," DEEP’s Sawyer said.

A final contract is expected to be in place later this year.

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