By Jonathan Phelps
---- — HAMILTON — The town is searching for a company to build an organic waste processing facility at the old town landfill off Chebacco Road.
The facility, known as an anaerobic digester, would use microorganisms to break down organic matter, producing a biogas to generate electricity. The town would lease the land to a company, which would be responsible for building and operating the facility, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo. The terms of the lease would be negotiated.
The organic materials would be brought to the facility by the company, he said.
The town put out a request for proposals at the end of last year, and town officials walked the site with interested companies last week, Lombardo said. Seven or eight companies have expressed interest, he said.
“It shows there is solid interest in doing this,” Lombardo said. Selectmen would have to approve any proposal before a company could move forward with plans.
He said the town might hold additional meetings for other interested companies before proposals are due March 4.
The site was a town landfill from 1959 to 1983. A 7-acre portion of the landfill was used as a burn dump until the 1970s; it was closed in 1980 and partially capped.
“The town has been looking into both closing the landfill and turning it into a productive asset for many years,” Selectman Marc Johnson said.
He said the town looked into using the land for commercial or office space, but there wasn’t any interest from developers when a previous request for proposals was sent out. The focus quickly shifted to renewable energy — wind, solar and an anaerobic digestion facility — which is a popular use for old landfills in other communities.
The former landfill is approximately 12.7 acres. Lombardo said the anaerobic digester would be located on about 3 acres, and another 4 to 5 acres would be available for a future solar field.
“It would be a nice complement to the use of the property,” he said.
The land must be almost completely capped before the town can apply for a post-use permit from the Department of Environmental Protection. The $1.2 million capping project is expected to be complete in the middle of next year, Lombardo said.
If the lease goes through, not only will the company pay the town to lease the land, it would process organic waste from the town’s curbside pickup program for free.
Lombardo said there is a growing need for such facilities because of increased regulations for organic waste disposal for many commercial businesses, including food processing and grocery stores.
“We see it as a very good opportunity for the town,” he said. “We are very hopeful it will create an opportunity for other North Shore communities looking to implement curbside compost.”
He stressed that the request for proposals is only one step in a long process. “It is not a foregone conclusion this will happen,” he said.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.