Fine deal with Wheelabrator

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

Wednesday was a good day for Wheelabrator and the Hampton Roads area, but the decision was too long coming.

This week, the Southeastern Public Service Authority board of directors voted for a semi-permanent return to its once and future disposal method. Wheelabrator owns a waste-to-energy facility in Portsmouth, where it burns our region’s trash and sells the steam to produce energy. Wheelabrator has owned the plant since it bought it from the authority as the authority attempted to dispatch its once-crushing levels of debt.

The facility, then, had been the region’s main method of disposing trash for many years. But in deciding whether the authority would continue past January of this year, the authority’s board decided to try out a relatively new technology with a new-to-the-area company, a strategy that wound up blowing up in their faces.

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RePower South had proposed turning the region’s trash into energy pellets at a Chesapeake facility. But there were a few problems. Nobody knew whether the technology would work in our waste stream. Nobody here knew the company. Oh, and one more thing — that Chesapeake facility wasn’t even built yet.

But SPSA forged ahead with RePower anyway, voting to give up Wheelabrator starting in 2018. But when late summer 2017 arrived and RePower continued to miss critical deadlines related to funding and other important aspects of the project, SPSA cut ties with RePower and decided to stick with Wheelabrator for one more year while they worked out another solution.

As it turned out, despite two other offers, that solution turned out to be Wheelabrator. The contract has been extended for eight more years with the possibility of two extensions up to five years each.

Wheelabrator is a large, proven company using proven technology, and it has developed a positive relationship with the community over the last few years.

We find that to be a fine solution. We’re just sorry the decision took so long.