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City looks for cheaper waste disposal options

POSTED October 26, 2012 7:38 p.m.

Turlock could soon look to export refuse outside of Stanislaus County, avoiding a potentially costly rate increase at the county’s waste-to-energy plant.

In June, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved raising disposal rates at the county’s Covanta-operated waste-to-energy incinerator from $28 per ton to $39 per ton. Costs of disposal at the landfill remained at $33 per ton.

Modesto garbage rates increased $1.90 per month for homeowners in response.

Another provision of the new contract with Covanta requires the county to deliver a minimum of 243,000 tons of waste to the incinerator each year – more than is generated in the unincorporated county and City of Modesto alone.

The county has now requested the remaining eight cities in Stanislaus County sign a contract, guaranteeing a minimum percentage of waste will be diverted to the incinerator. In exchange, the county would reduce landfill costs by $3 per ton when the incinerator is not operational.

The proposed contract led the City of Turlock and Turlock Scavenger to research alternate sites to dispose of the city’s waste. That research turned up new, out-of-county options, which may be less expensive.

“It looks like it is entirely feasible to where we could go outside of Stanislaus County, and there could be a benefit to our ratepayers to do that,” said Turlock Municipal Services Director Dan Madden.

Madden warned that the city still has to research the options, verifying costs and determining liability issues. Additionally, the city must ensure the move would not violate new state laws.

More details about the proposal will be made available in the coming weeks.

“As this continues to develop and we get more firm information, we’ll bring something formal back,” Madden said.

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