Broward garbage-to-energy plant will close

One of two taxpayer-funded incinerators in Broward County that creates energy out of household garbage will close.

Broward commissioners voted 7-2 on the controversial item Tuesday, agreeing that Waste Management can shutter the incinerator adjacent to Pompano Beach in northern Broward County. Commissioners Beam Furr and Lois Wexler voted no, wishing the county would consider purchasing the incinerator and preventing its closure, so that as much garbage can be recycled, via energy creation, as possible.

The incinerator, though paid for by taxpayers, is owned by Waste Management and is not for sale. Even without Tuesday’s vote, the plant could have been closed as early as 2018, and certainly in 2023, assistant county attorney Drew Meyers advised commissioners.

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But a majority of commissioners said the disbanding in 2012 of a regional alliance of cities and the county to dispose of trash made the purchase of the incinerator a practical impossibility. It was that disbanding of the Resource Recovery Board that led to the incinerator’s closure; Waste Management lost garbage customers to western Broward businessman Ron Bergeron’s company, Sun Bergeron. Their garbage, previously recycled via incineration, has largely been trucked to Central Florida and dumped in a landfill but is expected to be burned in Palm Beach County‘s waste-to-energy incinerator when it opens.

Trash contract changes have by-products in Broward

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The proposal to close the incinerator brought out busloads of critics to a previous meeting, out of concerns it would mean more garbage would be dumped on Monarch Hill landfill. The city of Coconut Creek and Waste Management then came to an agreement limiting the amount of garbage to be heaped each year on the landfill, known locally as “Mount Trashmore.”

Broward Mayor Tim Ryan said a second taxpayer funded incinerator in southern Broward off U.S. 441, north of Griffin Road, can handle all of the garbage now and for years to come. He couldn’t justify asking taxpayers to buy the northern incinerator a second time, when there’s enough capacity at the southern incinerator.

The county and cities send about 540,000 tons of garbage there a year. Each plant can burn 800,000 tons of garbage.

County Auditor Evan Lukic said the deal approved Tuesday had financial benefits for Broward. And he likened the idea of rebuilding a regional garbage disposal alliance that ended in “divorce” to asking a former spouse to remarry.

“The dissolution of the partnership was not a pleasant event,” he reminded commissioners.

Waste Management sold Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. in December to Energy Capital Partners, and the contract changes approved Tuesday were necessary to reflect that.

Broward backslides on recycling

Broward backslides on recycling Brittany Wallman Broward County is slipping backward in meeting a state goal for 2020 that 75 percent of its garbage be recycled. Broward County is slipping backward in meeting a state goal for 2020 that 75 percent of its garbage be recycled. ( Brittany Wallman ) –>

The county is obligated under state law to ensure there’s a place to dispose of garbage.

One benefit to the county, according to attorney Meyers: Under the deal approved Tuesday, Wheelabrator, owner of the southern incinerator, will start making annual payments toward the eventual closure of the landfill where the incinerator ash is heaped, as well as post-closure costs. Currently, the county had been making payments of $311,000 a year and was expecting a partial reimbursement from Wheelabrator later. Wheelabrator also will pay for demolition of the southern incinerator decades from now, at an estimated $13.4 million.

In other action, Broward commissioners Tuesday:

•Started the competitive bid process for a convention center expansion and hotel project that’s been on the county’s to-do list for decades;

•Were advised that a proposed agreement between the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and ride-booking services Uber and Lyft would not be voted on, because the entities would not sign. The agreement would have set up a system for the county to know when one of the cars was picking up or dropping off passengers at the airport, so the companies could pay fees like traditional taxis do.

bwallman@tribune.com or 954-356-4541

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

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