County leaders address concerns with incinerator shutdown

Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay County leaders are moving forward with the shut down of the county incinerator as commissioners approved a plan to do so at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“We’re looking at March,” said commissioner Bill Dozier.

According to the plan, the waste-to-energy facility will continue to operate normally through mid-January. Then it will be turned off, with multiple activities to continue through March 6th, 2021, completing the shut down. If the facility were to break down before the shut down date, commissioners would have the option of beginning the shut down early.

On Tuesday, Dozier addressed several concerns relating to the plan.

“There’s several aspects that will benefit the public,” he said.

That includes creating a small transfer station on site for residents to continue to bring debris.

Also, as waste haulers transition to Steelfield Landfill, Dozier said they’ll be saving money with significantly lower tipping fees.

“If they pass those savings onto their customers that’s up to them,” he said. “I’d like to think they would.”

With the shut down coming, some residents in Bayou George have another concern – a fly fiasco that they experienced around this time last year.”

“It was the worst I’ve ever seen,” said resident Tony Thompson, who remembers the fly invasion in November, 2019, when the incinerator had been broken down for weeks. 

“It was bad,” he said. “I had to take a fan and literally hold it up on high speed and blow them out by droves.”

Dozier said they are aware of the issue and prepared to address it. 

“As we have the shutdown we will be addressing those flies through spraying them,” Dozier said, adding that crews with the facility’s operator, Engen L.L.C., will also be clearing the tipping floor of all waste and cleaning it, hopefully clearing out the flies as well.

“Time will tell,” Thompson said. “My concern is that we’re going to have to be plagued with them from now on.”

Engen’s managing partner, Joe Tannehill, said Tuesday that while they’re ready to do the work, it’s a tough time since around thirty people will lose their jobs once the facility is offline.

“It’s a very dedicated crew and very accomplished crew,” Tannehill said. “My heart goes out to them.”

Click here to learn more about the decision to shut down the facility. 

Sone haulers said they’re concerned about the costs this decision will have on their businesses and equipment, however, county officials maintain that the decision will end up saving the county money in the long-run, as well as haulers around $10 per ton of waste, since continuing to operate the facility would have required raising the tipping fees dramatically.

“Whoever hauls to the landfill, whether it’s a private hauler or a city, they’ll be enjoying those savings as well,” Dozier said.

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