Shoshone BOCC talking trash

Staff Reporter | August 18, 2020 11:36 AM

WALLACE — The Shoshone Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recently met with David Naccarato with Johnson Controls Inc. to discuss and review the possibility of a Shoshone County waste-to-energy facility.

While no decision was made regarding the implementation of such a facility, it sparked some very interesting conversation among the three commissioners and Naccarato concerning how the county handles its waste.

While the concept of being eco-friendly is one that many people support, the real issue comes down to dollars and cents as well as timing, something BOCC chairman Mike Fitzgerald discussed at length.

“This seems like an idea that Shoshone County could benefit from, but timing really was the major setback,” Fitzgerald said. “On the cover, these facilities sound beneficial but in general, are not practical or cost efficient for public entities as Shoshone County at this time. In Shoshone County’s current mode of operations for waste disposal, Missoula’s Landfill provides the most cost-effective means to dispose of the county’s refuse.”

How these plants work also varies depending on the type of plant that is chosen in a specific location.

For instance, there are plants that burn garbage and waste and convert it into energy that can be sold to power companies, other plants can convert the waste into fuels such as diesel.

They can also be a solution for a community that doesn’t have any other options for disposing of its waste materials and are commonly found in remote mining areas, military facilities and even on commercial ships.

They aren’t cheap either, with even the most basic plants ringing in at an astounding $20 million.

Usually discussions surrounding these facilities moves toward potential savings for residents, but according to Fitzgerald that is also a matter of time.

“It is the classic tale of rate of return on investment,” Fitzgerald said. “It may take 30 years to pay the facility off if you take into account capital investment, payment terms and durations and operation costs.”

The current system utilized by Shoshone County for waste management involves a series of contracts and agreements between MCE Garbage and Recycling, the city of Kellogg, and various entities who all haul waste to Shoshone County’s Solid Waste Transfer Station where the trash is sorted into basic trash and recyclable materials. Household trash is transported to the Missoula Landfill.

MCE also handles much of the recycling for Shoshone County, including storage and then hauling to recycling purchasers when it is financially viable.

Green wood and yard waste are taken to the Big Creek (“Old”) Landfill for disposal while non-green wood is taken to Government Gulch for chipping and then landfill disposal.

While many, including the BOCC, understand that hauling trash to Missoula isn’t a forever-solution, they do recognize that at this point in time it is the most viable for Shoshone County.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping a watchful eye on the possibility of potentially better solutions.

“It is good to have an update on the technologies that are available,” Fitzgerald said. “It helps prepare for the future when times, landfill availability and costs change.”