Decommissioning is beginning for the waste-to-energy incinerator that has disposed much of Harford County's non-recyclable solid waste for nearly 30 years and is due to be shut down for good in the next 10 days.
During its most recent meeting on Feb. 23, the Harford County Board of Estimates approved a $311,538 contract with the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority to decommission and clean out the incinerator.
The authority operates the plant at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground and leases the site from the Army. That lease agreement is scheduled to expire March 17, and operations will cease that day, Jeff Schoenberger, of the county's Department of Public Works, told board members.
The incinerator opened in 1988. The refuse burned there generated steam to heat and cool buildings at the Edgewood Area.
"The trash we're burning will end up going to the new transfer facility," Schoenberger said, referring to a new Baltimore County transfer facility in White Marsh, which will receive the majority of Harford's trash starting later this year under an agreement between the two counties.
Once the Harford waste goes to the White Marsh station, Baltimore County will be responsible for its final disposal, either through recycling at a facility in Cockeysville or at various locations, including landfills, that they have under contract, Harford County government spokesperson Cindy Mumby said.
Schoenberger said the waste that normally would be transported to the waste-to-energy facility will be taken to the county's Scarboro landfill in Street for the next few months, until the new White Marsh facility is ready. Under its contract with Baltimore County, Harford is providing a significant share of the funding for construction of the transfer facility.
Last year, Harford officials said approximately 130,000 tons of trash will be sent to the White Marsh facility annually, once the agreement with Baltimore County takes full effect. The county is also making plans to eventually close the Scarboro landfill once it runs out of space.
Director of Administration Billy Boniface, who chaired the last estimates board meeting, said there will be future contacts for additional phases of closing the incinerator, including demolishing the structure.
"Today, you're approving shutting the plant down and decommissioning it," he said.
The incinerator's demise came about after Army declined to continue its relationship with the county and the regional waste authority beyond this year, quashing any prospect of building a replacement.
Instead, the Army entered into a deal with a private contractor, Johnson Controls, which is building a $40 million cogeneration facility that uses natural gas to generate electricity, with the waste heat from the turbines producing steam for the buildings.
The Army project is "far into construction," Amburr Reese, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Garrison at APG, said Thursday, and is due to begin commissioning in late April or early May.
When operational, APG officials have said the cogeneration facility, or CHP for combined heat and power plant, would satisfy about 80 percent of the Edgewood Area's energy needs.