Aroostook Waste to close PI landfill and move operations to Fort Fairfield

1 year ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle landfill is nearing the end of its capacity and will cease operations this summer.

In 2019, Presque Isle joined Aroostook Waste Solutions, which operates the Tri-Community Landfill in Fort Fairfield and includes Caribou, Limestone and Fort Fairfield. Part of the agreement was to stop operating the Presque Isle site.

Though there is some capacity for future use, the Chapman Road landfill is reaching its limits, said Mark Draper, Solid Waste Director of Aroostook Waste Solutions. The move to Tri-Community will cut about $630,000 in operational costs at the Presque Isle landfill. 

Businesses and commercial haulers, like Gil’s Sanitation Service and Star City Sanitation Inc., will deliver to Fort Fairfield later this year, Draper said, but households can still take trash to Presque Isle.

“Residents who are currently taking their trash out to that facility can continue to do that,” Draper said. “The permits we have sold them for 2023 will be honored when we make this transition and they won’t have to worry about that.”

The Presque Isle Landfill is exceptionally expensive to operate, and it wouldn’t make sense to have two small landfills operating 26 miles apart, Draper said.

When Aroostook Waste Solutions took over the Presque Isle Landfill in 2019, they estimated that it would take three to five years the landfill would still be operational and have now run into their fourth year.

Various birds looking for scraps fly over the Presque Isle Landfill located at 202 Lathrop Road on Feb. 9. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

The Tri-Community merger was finalized in January 2019, and replaced the pay-as-you-throw system and blue recycling bags with the recycling igloos located near post offices, municipality headquarters and grocery stores. Residents could once again contract with the hauler of their choice.

While a hard timeline isn’t in place, Aroostook Waste Solutions estimates full transfer to the Fort Fairfield landfill will happen this summer. Some employees will man the transfer station at Presque Isle, but the weekly schedule and hours will change from Monday through Saturday to Tuesday through Saturday. 

Mowing will continue at the Presque Isle landfill after the snow melts.

“A closed landfill, even though you are not using it, still requires maintenance,” Draper said.

The landfills contain cells, which are six to eight acres in size and constructed of plastic and clay liners that sit on the ground. Presque Isle has four of them. Tri-Community has six of these cells, and this year will build two more with an estimated construction cost of up to $5 million, Draper said. 

There is space for two more to be built within the next 10 years.

The Fort Fairfield landfill is projected to reach full capacity in around 20 years, Draper said. When that happens, Tri-Community will close and operations will transfer to the Presque Isle site, to use what is left of that space.  

“Those cells that have been constructed, we’re going to fill them,” he said. “All of the trash will come to Fort Fairfield for probably the next 20 years or so.”

Both landfills are located in rural areas. Because waste haulers will have a longer trip to the Fort Fairfield landfill, they are increasing their fees for residents by $8 a month, from $37 to $45 monthly, according to representatives of both Gil’s and Star City Sanitation.