The sale of the Coastal Resources municipal waste recycling facility in Hampden to a company that specializes in sewer sludge is behind schedule, according to the Municipal Review Committee, which is negotiating on behalf of 115 towns and cities that once sent their trash there.

At a special meeting on March 9, Karen Fussell, president of MRC’s board of directors, said negotiations with Pennsylvania-based Delta Thermo Energy are ongoing, but added, “there are some sort of fundamental differences that we're working through right now.”

“It is apparent however that financial close will not take place by the end of March as we had laid out in the [memorandum of understanding],” she said.

The Coastal Resources facility was developed by Maryland-based Fiberight. The startup company touted a system that would make biogas fuel from organic solid waste and won over a critical number of MRC’s towns, who were looking for a green alternative to the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. waste-to-energy incinerator in Orrington. However construction delays, cost overruns and delays in permitting doomed the project and after just over a year in business, it closed in May 2020.

MRC owns the land on which the recycling facility was built. The buildings and equipment are owned by CRM, a company formed by Fiberight, but are pledged as collateral to a group of bondholders represented in negotiations by a trustee who MRC expects will foreclose on CRM’s holdings.

Delta Thermo Energy has primarily focused on a proprietary technology that composts organic waste and sewer sludge in a process called hydrothermal decomposition. The end product is a fuel that burns at high temperatures with lower emissions than coal, according to DTE. The process, which CEO Rob VanNaarden said could be added to the Coastal Resources facility in the future would require additional permits according to MRC. VanNaarden has said his first priority is to reopen the Coastal Resources plant to accept municipal waste from MRC’s member towns.

In a recent FAQ, MRC wrote that any sewer sludge used in the future would come from member towns. The note was in response to a description from VanNaarden of sludge barges from New York City looking for somewhere to dispose of the city’s waste, to which he commented, “We eliminate that need.” New York no longer ships sludge out of the city by barge, but regardless, VanNaarden’s comment suggested that Maine could become a hub for processing sludge from out of state.

This is not what VanNaarden meant, according to the MRC update: “He was using that as an example of how difficult and how universal the problem of sludge disposal has become.”

MRC will hold a special board meeting Thursday, March 25, at 2 p.m. via Zoom. Register to participate at: mrcmaine.org/upcomingmeetings. The organization typically streams its meetings live on its Facebook page.