Florida Waste Company Seeks to Close Incinerator, Transfer Trash

- by Brittany Wallman, December 9, 2014, Sun Sentinel

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"340","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"139","style":"width: 362px; height: 139px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;","width":"362"}}]]Neighbors of the "Mount Trashmore'' landfill in northern Broward descended on County Hall Tuesday, worried about plans to close a trash-burning incinerator in the region.

Hundreds piled into County Commission chambers, some having arrived on a bus from the Wynmoor Village senior condo coummunity in Coconut Creek. City officials and residents there fear the displaced trash could end up heaped upon the landfill, officially named Monarch Hill but long dubbed Mount Trashmore by locals.

Waste Management's Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. wants Broward County Commission approval to stop using the northern trash-to-energy plant. Under the proposal, the garbage would rumble south in trucks through the heart of the county to an incinerator on U.S. 441, north of Griffin Road.

As the county has seen in recent years, garbage is heavily controversial here. Over the past two years, Waste Management/Wheelabrator's 20-year monopoly disposing of Broward residents' trash was broken up, setting off a competitive garbage war.

When the dust settled, Wheelabrator had lost thousands of customers, businessman-cowboy Ron Bergeron's new company, Sun Bergeron, had gained thousands of customers, and garbage rates dropped for residents across the county.

Now, Wheelabrator doesn't have enough trash to justify keeping two incinerators open, vice president of operations Bill Roberts said.

Broward commissioners will take up the issue on Jan. 13. They opted to postpone a vote so the new county commissioner in North Broward's District 2, attorney Mark Bogen, can be sworn in and seated. He won election on Dec. 4.

Roberts said the deal at hand wouldn't supercede Waste Management's agreement with Coconut Creek about landfill operations.

The contract change is necessary for another reason: Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. is being sold by parent company Waste Management to an affiliate of Energy Capital Partners for $1.94 billion, according to a July 29 announcement. Part of that transaction involves Waste Management retaining the north incinerator. Wheelabrator and its new parent company would own only the south incinerator.

The conceptual contract up for County Commission approval would allow Waste Management to use the north incinerator as a trash transfer station, for garbage that would be hauled to the south incinerator.

The business sale is scheduled to close in mid-December. The county's vote isn't critical for the deal, though, Roberts said.

"The deal is going to go through,'' he said.

The item is raising a stink — with a lot of information and misinformation in circulation.

A line in the tentative contract says if the county needs to get rid of additional trash, up to 575,000 tons could be sent to "alternative disposal facilities.'' Former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman, a lobbyist for Sun Bergeron, said that line concerns her and her team needs time to analyze it. Sun Bergeron senior vice president Phil Medico said he also fears the contract could give Wheelabrator an unfair advantage.

Waste Management spokeswoman Dawn McCormick said the landfill isn't the only alternative facility for trash; the proposal adds Okeechobee Landfill outside of South Florida, as well, she said.

She also said that under "current market conditions,'' the trash volume at Monarch Hill is "not anticipated to change.''

But Coconut Creek Commissioner Lou Sarbone said he thinks otherwise, based on "the history'' at the landfill, between Waste Management and his city.