Fairfax County Looking for Waste Options, Renegotiating with Covanta

Fairfax County dumps about 1 million tons of municipal waste in Lorton annually.

For the past 21 years, Fairfax County has dumped its municipal waste at Lorton's I/95 Energy/Resource Recovery Facility. The county, which owns the 23-acre plant, is currently laying the groundwork to negotiate a deal when its 25-year lease agreement comes to an end in February 2016. 

"The plant has operated very well over the years, and they continue to meet their environmental permit requirements," Joyce Doughty, director of the county's Division of Solid Waste Disposal and Resource Recovery, told Patch. "They've lived up to their agreement, and we have been satisfied with their performance."

Mike Berlin is the business manager of Lorton's Covanta Energy-From-Waste plant. "We hope to restart negotiations with the county close to the end of the year. We just renegotiated our contracts with Alexandria and Arlington in February," he said. 

Fairfax County sends about 1 million tons of municipal waste to the Covanta facility every year. Last year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors passed on an option to buy the plant (which was appraised at $350 million to $450 million), and after selling bonds, the county has paid $15.55 for each ton of waste sent to the plant. That price, which has saved the county about $20 million a year, is fixed until the agreement ends in 2016. 

By the numbers


 Fairfax County Trash (in tons)

Cost 2008    1,017,855 $29,177,414 2009    991,953  $31,798,743 2010    996,703 $35,445,596 2011    996,051    $24,734,372 2012    1,038,812 $14,575,670

"Now we've got a very good deal, and we would anticipate the price going up (upon reaching an agreement) with Covanta," said Doughty. "Our current agreement is not what we're going to be seeing in the future. Everything that we go forward with will be subject of negotiations."

Nearly 150 dump trucks unload every day at the Lorton facility, resulting in about 1 million tons of refuse per year which is converted into 80 megawatts of energy, which is then sold to Virginia Dominion Power.

"This is the way that waste should be handled, versus landfilling," said Covanta spokesman James Regan. "We burn 3,000 tons of trash per day, and we're the only energy option that reduces greenhouse gases by providing electricity. When waste goes to a landfill it creates methane, which is 25 times more potent than CO2." 

Covanta Energy Corporation opened the Energy-to-Waste facility in Lorton in 1990. The Lorton Plant is home to a new metal recycling system, which is designed to recover small particles of non-ferrous metal. In February, the plant won the 2012 Excellence Award from the Solid Waste Association of North America. Covanta operates 45 Energy-from-Waste facilities across the country, including a plant in the City of Alexandria. 

Greg Crider September 14, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I hope that when the County negotiates the rates they will keep the customer foremost in mind and won't view this as yet another opportunity to raise rates to residents with County collection service. Although the County may have been getting a "good deal" from Covanta, residents with County collection service generally pay more than residents with collection by private haulers for equivalent service. Most County residents have private trash haulers, while a minority of us have County collection service and mostly live in the older areas of Fairfax County.
Dale Rumberger September 16, 2012 at 01:17 AM
150 dump trucks a day into Lorton. One Million tons of waste. We save the county $20 million dollars a year, not to mention the electricity sale to Dominion Virginia Power, (which by the way Dom VaPower sets the rate we sell the energy back to them...). And Lorton gets what in return from the county? That needs to be answered.
Tim Rizer September 20, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Dale, Your question is spot on! Truck traffic into Lorton is a sizable and growing issue. Tim


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