CONOY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- On his third tour of a waste-to-energy plant in 14 months, Carroll Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said he's convinced that the technology should be integrated into the county's future solid waste management plans.
Mr. Dell, county government officials and four county Environmental Affairs Advisory Board members visited the Lancaster County Resource Recovery Facility and a nearby landfill Friday to learn about that county's comprehensive solid waste management system.
Mr. Dell said there's a "pretty good chance" that a waste-to-energy plant -- which produces power by burning trash -- will be seriously considered soon for Carroll.
"It's so positive in my mind, as opposed to looking for a new landfill site in the future," Mr. Dell said. "I don't even know where we'd begin to look."
Carroll's Northern Landfill near Westminster will be filled in about 14 years and the Hoods Mill Landfill in South Carroll will be filled in about four years, said James E. Slater Jr., the county's environmental services administrator. The two landfills, along with a 2-month-old voluntary recycling program, make up Carroll's solid waste management program.
Mr. Slater is updating the county's 10-year solid waste management plan, which will recommend a waste-to-energy plant as an option.
"My goal is to get the county to adopt an integrated waste management plan," he said. "We shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket. We should find the most sound and sensitive technology to deal with waste, environmentally and economically."
Components of Lancaster County's system include a transfer station,where materials are dropped off, separated, then transported to different outlets; a landfill reclamation program, in which trash is excavated and burned for energy; a household hazardous waste facility; a curbside recycling program operated municipalities; and the waste-to-energy plant, which produces ash. The plant cost about $106 million.
Several advisory board members said they were impressed with Lancaster County's system.
"As far as the economics, Carroll County has to implement something similar in the near future to keep up with the waste stream," said Richard Filling, an environmental specialist with Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.
Mr. Dell said the commissioners still plan to appoint a committee to study the feasibility of a waste-to-energy plant for Carroll, and to evaluate possible sites. He and Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy announced that they would appoint such a committee after they toured a Fairfax County, Va. waste-to-energy plant nine months ago.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge has not participated in any of the tours and has not supported incineration.
Mr. Dell said the Hoods Mill Landfill area would be a "logical site" for a waste-to-energy plant. He said he would prefer building a plant to handle trash produced within the county, but added that he "wouldn't rule out a regional facility."
The county now produces enough trash daily to make a plant economically feasible, although larger plants are more cost-effective, said J. Joseph Burgess, a business director for Ogden Martin Systems Inc. His company operates the Lancaster County plant and others nationwide.
Lancaster County, which has a population of about 400,000, has a solid waste management authority independent of county government that arranges financing and implements the county commissioners' plan.
The authority repays plant debt and operating costs through a $67-per-ton fee on trash haulers who dump there and through revenues it receives from a local utility that purchases electricity.
Residents pay about $125 annually for all waste management services and are billed by municipalities, which pay the haulers and the authority.
Even though the per-ton fee continues to increase, residents' costs have remained constant due to system efficiencies and incentives, said Herbert W. Flosdorf, the authority's executive director.
The Lancaster facility faced opposition during the approval process, said Mr. Flosdorf. But he said strict environmental permit conditions make the plant cleaner in its emissions than nearby industries.
"We've tried to create a system that reflects the community's ethics -- land preservation, a strong environmentalism," he said.
"The authority helped establish credibility. Our values are their values, our concerns are their concerns."