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SPSA votes Wheelabrator back in

The regional trash authority on Wednesday voted to extend its contract with its waste disposal company for eight more years.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority extended its contract with Wheelabrator Technologies to continue providing waste management and renewable energy to the region.

The decision comes more than a year after the authority terminated an agreement with RePower South, which had proposed turning the region’s trash into energy pellets at a Chesapeake facility. But the company missed multiple deadlines in more than a year and a half between SPSA originally awarding the contract and the authority’s board finally voting to terminate the contract in August 2017.

Wheelabrator owns a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth that was the region’s primary disposal method before the decision. The company got back a one-year contract after RePower’s failure to get off the ground.

That contract was set to expire Jan. 13, 2019, and the authority has now chosen to extend the contract for eight more years.

The agreement covers eight localities — the cities of Suffolk, Chesapeake, Franklin, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton. The new contract also allows for two extensions for up to five years with each extension.

The contract has the potential to last until 2036.

Wheelabrator is the second-largest U.S. waste-to-energy business and currently disposes of 2,370 tons of trash per day — almost 680,000 tons each year — from homes and businesses for SPSA. It provides power for the equivalent of nearly 32,000 Virginia homes as well as its own operations. It also provides steam for the U.S. Navy shipyard in Norfolk.

“Our decision to select Wheelabrator Technologies as the most sustainable choice for SPSA members is in keeping with our mission to dispose of waste in an environmentally sound manner,” SPSA chairman John Keifer stated in a press release from Rubin Communications Group, Wheelabrator’s public relations firm. “Waste-to-energy is a cost-effective and proven method of post-recycled waste disposal supported by the U.S. EPA hierarchy over landfilling. Wheelabrator will reduce our reliance on landfills while creating renewable energy for nearby communities and the U.S. Navy. We look forward to continuing our positive relationship with Wheelabrator.”

Prior to choosing Wheelabrator, SPSA received three proposals, but the authority’s board decided Wheelabrator was the most qualified company and chose to begin negations with Wheelabrator. The board made that determination at its April 25 meeting, and members voted unanimously at their Sept. 26 meeting to issue an intent to award the contract.

The contract was officially awarded at Wednesday’s meeting.

“SPSA’s most important priority is to satisfy the waste disposal needs of member localities by providing the highest quality of service at the lowest reasonable cost,” Liesl DeVary, executive director of SPSA, stated in the Wheelabrator release.