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Hartford Mayor Says He’s 'Adamantly' Opposed To MIRA’s Trash Transfer Idea

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Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public

Mayor Luke Bronin told the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority’s board of directors Wednesday that bringing “massive amounts of trash” into Hartford shouldn’t be the long-term solution to a looming waste crisis slated to impact about 50 towns in less than a year.

MIRA burns trash from those towns to create power at its facility in Hartford. But age and declining electricity revenue mean the decades-old plant located in the South Meadows is scheduled to close by July 2022.

That closure has left open a big question about how cities and towns in the region will deal with hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage. And the clock is ticking.

On Wednesday, MIRA said it’s working with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to turn its current trash-burning facility into a transfer station, even though MIRA initially said it wouldn’t do that.

Bronin said that his city isn’t taking “a position of uncompromising resistance” to helping MIRA solve its waste problem but that the agency needs a better plan for its future.

“We’re open to hosting a next-generation technology,” Bronin said. “We are not open to having a massive amount of trash trucked into the South Meadows only to be then transferred out.”

“I am adamantly opposed to this becoming a long-term transfer station,” Bronin said, noting he saw “long-term” as more than two to three years.

“In the absence of a compelling and convincing plan that there will be a near-term end date, with a plan for replacement, I will do everything I can possibly do to prevent this from moving forward,” Bronin said.

Right now, it’s unclear what a plan for replacement would be or who would pay for it.

In July of 2020, the state DEEP rejected a proposal to modernize the current MIRA facility, noting issues with plant reliability and the proposed $330 million cost of the new build-out.

MIRA President and CEO Tom Kirk told board members Wednesday that the agency is “charging full speed ahead” with applying to the DEEP to modify existing permits. If approved, those modifications could pave the way to a transfer station in Hartford.

Kirk said the agency is soliciting proposals from private vendors who are interested in moving that garbage. He said access to South Meadows is key to making that idea work.

“We believe we will likely need access to the South Meadows tipping floor … for loading trucks for out-of-state disposal,” Kirk said. “We’re going to be moving a thousand tons a day, a full day’s drive away. Our infrastructure for doing that, in the absence of South Meadows, is going to be very, very challenged.”

Bronin said he hopes to meet privately with MIRA and DEEP leadership, but he told board members any such conversations should be linked not only to the future of the South Meadows site, but also to the future of MIRA itself.

“In the absence of a new plan, and new commitment from the state that makes such a plan feasible, it’s becoming increasingly hard for me to see the purpose for MIRA’s existence,” Bronin said.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter at Connecticut Public. He covers science and the environment. 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 by phone at 860-275-7297 or by email: pskahill@ctpublic.org.