PITTSFIELD — Community Eco Power may have found a buyer for its waste-to-energy facility on Hubbard Avenue in Pittsfield.
In a letter to employees, the head of the company said the future use of the 5.8-acre Pittsfield facility, with its distinctive billowing smoke, could be as a trash transfer station.
An anonymous source sent the letter to The Eagle. The Eagle was able to verify that Community Eco Power employees had received it. It was sent by Richard Fish, the president and chief operating officer of the North Carolina-based company, which also owns a plant on the banks of the Connecticut River in Agawam.
The Eagle left voicemails on Fish’s cellphone on Saturday. He did not respond.
When contacted by phone on Saturday, Mayor Linda Tyer told The Eagle that the city knows nothing about the plans.
“We have not been notified about this latest development, which is obviously disappointing to me because this has a significant impact on the way that we manage the city’s solid waste,” she said.
Despite the company filing for bankruptcy earlier last year, Community Eco Power’s two Massachusetts facilities have remained in operation. The company had stated that its intentions were to keep the facilities running while putting its financial matters into order.
In August, following the company’s Chapter 11 filing, the city of Pittsfield entered into a three-year agreement to continue its relationship with Community Eco Power.
Tyer confirmed on Saturday that the agreement includes a clause that the city be given an advance notice of a year should Community Eco Power decide to shut down or discontinue service. It’s not clear if, or how, that clause would be honored, should a sale of the facility go through.
Importantly, as Fish’s letter states, any sale would be contingent upon the approval from the bankruptcy court.
According to the company website, Community Eco Power’s Pittsfield plant processes 240 tons each day of solid waste generated by residences and commercial operations throughout Berkshire County. The trash-burning plant produces over 450 million pounds of steam, as well as 3.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.
Fish’s letter to employees indicates the company has “received interest from various buyers who want to continue to operate the facilities as currently operated, as well as from buyers who want to convert the facilities into transfer stations. We have been reviewing these offers carefully as these options may impact all stakeholders — customers, vendors, the communities we serve and each of you.
“Recently, we signed a non-binding letter of intent with a company that is interested in the [Agawam] facility as a transfer station as well as a company that is interested in the Pittsfield facility as a transfer station.”
Fish wrote that a sale “will take months.” He wrote that employees can expect another update by Feb. 21.
“Thank you for your efforts in keeping the plants operational while we work through the process,” the letter closes.
“If it switches over to a transfer station only,” Tyer said, “it means that our solid waste, our trash, will have to be, essentially, collated or collected, gathered, at the transfer station and then transported to another facility for disposal. So you know, the question is, what are the costs associated with that? What facility is it going to?”
She said, “I’m sure there will be a lot more coming on this topic in the weeks ahead.”
As of June 18, the Pittsfield plant had 21 employees. Six of them were salaried, and the other 15 were receiving hourly salary compensation, according to the bankruptcy filing. It’s unclear if the staffing remains the same.
The facility was built by Vicon Corp. in 1981. According to Eagle files, the waste-to-energy facility is one of the oldest such plants in the country. Community Eco Power purchased the two Massachusetts plants from Covanta Energy Corp. in 2019.
The company soon filed for Chapter 11 because deferred maintenance on the Pittsfield facility was “a little bit higher than they expected it to be,” Community Eco Power’s attorney Sam Anderson told The Eagle last July. “Because of that, they had to take out loans.”