Developing a small- to large-scale solid-waste-to-energy facility has become too cost-prohibitive, so Franklin County is looking at using the railroad to curb disposal costs.
William Anderson, Solid Waste Management director, told the Finance Committee on April 8 that the cost to develop a solid-waste-to-energy facility — where Franklin County and neighboring counties’ solid waste could be disposed of to generate electricity — is estimated to cost about $100 million, and the county would not be able to get any return on its investment for 20 years.
The county had been looking into options where a 200-ton-per-day facility might cost about $20 million with a 500- to 600-ton facility costing about $40 million.
However, Anderson said that the most recent project estimates far exceed what the county had hoped to spend on the project.
He said another option includes potentially developing a solid-waste shipping facility on the former Austin and Sadie Moon property that the county owns, which includes 28- and 134-acre tracts.
The larger tract is near Baxter Lane and Modena Road and is bordered by Highway 64 while the smaller tract is on the west side of Highway 64.
The 134-acre tract has a railroad spur that could be used to transport solid waste to Alabama and Georgia where disposal costs are considerably less, Anderson said.
He said CSX Railroad has entered into 50-year transportation contracts, and Franklin County could benefit from being able to lock into such long-term rates.
Anderson said the solid-waste transportation facility could be built on about 20 acres and potentially cost about $4 million.
He added that the county could contract with neighboring counties to transport their solid waste and use the proceeds toward paying for the facility.
County Mayor David Alexander said the Moon property doesn’t have sewer service, and it could cost up to $10 million to extend lines to tie in with the city of Winchester’s system.
However, Anderson said the facility would be small with fewer employees where a septic system would probably be able to handle the property’s sewage.
County Commissioner David Eldridge, a Finance Committee member, said the facility’s ownership could be shared with other counties, which could reduce Franklin County’s financial commitment.
Anderson said that could lead to Franklin County having less control over the project.
Anderson has said that the county is facing increased solid-waste disposal costs where it had been $30.32 per ton seven years ago and has more recently increased to more than $50 per ton.
He had said that Franklin County residents discard about 100 tons of solid waste per day into a landfill.
In 2019, the county was spending about $550,000 annually to get rid of its solid waste, and estimates are that disposal fees could reach $70 per ton, Anderson had said, adding that the annual disposal figure could climb to more than $700,000 annually.
He said he would have more concrete estimates to present to the Finance Committee at its next meeting to further consider options about the solid-waste disposal facility.