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by Mark Reutter7:55 amApr 2, 20240

$1.2 billion contract to handle commercial waste is approved by Baltimore County Council

For the next 20 years, Baltimore County will rely on one company to haul away commercial garbage under a contract the Olszewski administration says will more than pay for itself through higher user fees

Above: Eastern Sanitary Landfill, near the Bird River at White Marsh, is one of three landfills operated by Baltimore County. (Yelp)

The Baltimore County Council last night approved an eye-popping contract with BFI Waste Services.

“$1.2 billion. . . billion?” Chairman Izzy Patoka exclaimed when the contract for hauling commercial garbage to a Virginia landfill was presented by Public Works Director D’Andrea Walker last week at a work session.

“I think this is the biggest contract we’ve seen, at least during the time I’ve been here,” marveled the two-term Democrat.

Despite his initial disbelief, he and the rest of the Council (minus an absent Mike Ertel) unanimously approved the measure at Monday night’s meeting at the request of County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

Baltimore County currently relies on three entities – BFI, Waste Management and Wheelabrator’s BRESCO incinerator – to cart away or burn solid waste generated by commercial businesses.

Residential trash, by contrast, is deposited in county landfills and will not be directly impacted by the BFI agreement.

In 2021, the Council awarded a 30-month contract to Waste Management to haul away commercial trash to out-of-state sites for $25 million, or $10 million a year. The contract covered two of the county’s three landfills.

The new contract with BFI, including all three landfills, will average $60 million a year starting on July 1, 2024, with automatic renewals stretching through June 2044.

The higher cost will be offset by an increase in disposal fees charged to private haulers who use Eastern Sanitary Landfill, Central Acceptance Facility and Western Acceptance Facility. Those fees will rise from $100 a ton to $125 a ton, Walker said.

The new fees will likely generate surplus revenues to the county, which Walker placed as potentially high as $142.4 million over 20 years.

But there is no guarantee. The contract allows for a 5% price increase every year based on the Consumer Price Index. In addition, the fuel component of the contract can be adjusted upwards or downwards twice a year based on diesel fuel costs.

Solid Waste Bureau Chief Nicholas Rodrick and Public Works Director D'Andrea Walker unveiled the BFI proposal last Tuesday to the Council.

Solid Waste Bureau Chief Nicholas Rodricks and Public Works Director D’Andrea Walker unveiled the BFI contract last Tuesday to the County Council.

From Two Haulers to One

For years, Baltimore County has relied on Waste Management and BFI (which trades under the name Republic Services) to handle commercial refuse that was not burned at the BRESCO incinerator in South Baltimore.

The decision to work exclusively with BFI was decided by Walker and Nicholas Rodricks, chief of the Bureau of Solid Waste Management, after the county received proposals from both haulers.

BFI was selected over Waste Management “through a competitive negotiation process based on qualifications and price,” Walker stated in the department’s fiscal note.

The company has been a longtime backer of Johnny Olszewski, both when he was a state delegate from Dundalk and as county executive.

BFI has been a longtime political backer of Johnny Olszewski.

Republic/BFI and its local advocate, George Perdikakis, former head of the Maryland Environmental Service, have contributed $5,500 to Olszewski in recent years, election board records show.

Olszewski is now seeking to win the congressional seat vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D, 2nd), himself a former Baltimore County executive.

The per-ton fee to be charged by BFI to haul trash to the King and Queen Sanitary Landfill in Little Plymouth, Virginia, was not disclosed by Walker, and was not requested by Patoka or his colleagues.

Councilman Julian E. Jones Jr. said his only concern is “does the county get more money than it’s been getting in the past?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Walker, who is slated to become the next county administrative officer, replacing Stacy Rodgers, who endorsed the terms of the BFI agreement.

Landfills Still Have Capacity

Last year, Baltimore County transferred 151,000 tons of commercial refuse through its three waste stations, generating $8 per ton of revenue, or about $1.2 million. In addition, the county generated an additional $4.7 million by directly disposing commercial material at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill and handling residential garbage from Harford County.

The new contract will send all of this tonnage to Virginia.

Last week, Councilman Ertel wanted to know if the garbage would be hauled by truck on state highways, or whether some portion would go by rail.

Walker said the county did not receive any proposals for rail transport.

In answer to another question, Rodricks said the county’s three landfills currently have a useful lifespan of 10 to 15 years without vertical expansion and 20 to 30  years with vertical expansion.

Just two years ago, Walker and the Olszewski administration estimated that the county’s landfills would reach capacity by 2027.

Then in the midst of boosting Jack Haden’s plan for a private trash transfer station, an Olszewski spokesperson told The Brew that “there is an urgent need to increase our ability to transfer more trash out of the county.”

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