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Shuttered Claremont, New Hampshire Incinerator to Reopen

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- by Patrick O’Grady, April 15, 2015, Valley News

The shuttered Wheelabrator incinerator on Grissom Lane was sold at auction Tuesday for $1.63 million, with the buyer saying he plans to use it to burn municipal waste.

As several bidders stood outside the plant hoping to pick up pieces of equipment at a bargain price, auctioneer Stuart Millner explained that he would allow a bidder to buy everything, including about 9 acres of land.

Millner started the bidding at $1.5 million and Ed Deely — who said he was there on behalf of Hybrid Tech Farms — quickly raised it to the final price of $1.63 million. Other bidders who were not present at the site communicated with Millner by phone, but it was unclear how many there were.

The sale price was referred to as “restricted,” which Deely explained means there will be restrictions, agreed to with Wheelabrator, on the municipalities from which the company can accept solid waste. Late Tuesday, Deely said it is too early to predict when the sale would be finalized or when the plant would start burning trash.

Deely’s bid covered the building, land and equipment at the plant.

The land and buildings are currently assessed at $7.4 million.

Deely , who has a Boston-area cellphone number, referred to the entity’s website, hybridtechfarms.com, which says it is a “network of local based farms that grow organic wheat grass.” It also says it has locations in New Hampshire, New Orleans, Nashville and Las Vegas, with another location “opening soon” in Belize. Domain records indicate Deely registered the site, created on Dec. 5, 2014, to a Nashua, N.H., address.

Deely and “Hybrid Tech Farms, Hybrid Tech Homes” appeared on the Planning Board agenda for the town of Winchendon, Mass., in February 2014 to discuss a “conceptual proposal,” according to Winchendon Director of Development Gerald White.

But Deely “never followed through or purchased a building in town,” White said.

The incinerator was built after a controversial vote by the Claremont City Council in 1985 to allow construction without putting the question to voters. The plant came online in 1987 and coincided with a contract between Wheelabrator and the New Hampshire-Vermont Solid Waste Project. Comprised of 29 communities in both states, the project was required to send its waste to the incinerator under a 20-year contract that expired in 2007, signaling the end of the project. The concept was sold to project communities as an inexpensive way to get rid of trash and produce cheap energy.

Wheelabrator operated the Claremont incinerator for 27 years before closing it in September 2013 for what was described as “economic reasons.” Despite the shutdown, the company continued seeking a five-year operating permit, which was issued by the Air Resources Council of the state Department of Environmental Services last year. A group of residents appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court and was denied the appeal on March 17. A motion to reconsider that decision was filed late last month, but no decision has yet been rendered.

Incinerator opponents Katie Lajoie, of Charlestown, and Cornelia Sargent, of Claremont, attended Tuesday’s auction. Both said they were disappointed with the outcome and would continue to oppose the plant’s operation.

Just before Millner began bidding on the property, Sargent interrupted and loudly said that there has always been strong community resistance to this “scourge upon our city.”

“This will be resisted,” Sargent said after the auction. “They have to understand that.”

Lajoie, who was one of about 30 residents who appealed the plant’s operating permit, questioned Deely about the permit and said the appeal reconsideration had not been decided on by the court.

“Everything I need to turn this plant on now is there,” Deely replied.

Todd Moore of the Air Resources Council and Mike Guilfoy, administrator of the state’s Solid Waste Management Bureau, both said Tuesday afternoon that transferring the operating permit to a new owner would be a simple administrative task.

“As soon as they do that, they are good to go and can operate the plant,” Moore said.

But Guilfoy also said that if the operation of the plant changes substantially, including a retrofit to capture emissions, then it is likely the permit would have to be modified.

Deely asserted that if he reopens the incinerator, it would capture all emissions and “you could breathe the air out of that chimney.”

He told Lajoie that the process would ease any emissions concerns.

But Lajoie, a proponent of an aggressive recycling program for Sullivan County, remained unconvinced.

“It is still incinerating trash. It is still wasting resources. It is still creating toxic ash,” she said while leaving the premises. “That was a disappointing outcome. It is a pity for Claremont.”