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Trash talk in Fairfax is just about over

Thursday - 3/24/2011, 1:18pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A big decision on trash is about to be made in Fairfax County, and it may impact other parts of the D.C. region.

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors will vote next Tuesday on whether to buy the Covanta Fairfax waste-to-energy facility in Lorton by borrowing $418 million in bonds, or to continue leasing the land to a private owner.

In an interview at WTOP studios, Board Chairman Sharon Bulova says she would prefer to renegotiate the lease.

"It needs to be at terms that are going to protect our residents, not just for the short term but for the long term as well," Bulova says.

Under the current agreement, the plant also takes garbage from neighboring Prince William County and the District of Columbia.

There is some concern that Covanta might start bringing in garbage from long distances or even from out of state if the plant remains in private hands. Critics say that could snarl local traffic and create other hazards related to garbage hauling.

Bulova says it's not clear if the majority of the board favors the sale or the lease, despite a recommendation from county staff that the purchase be made.

But the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying against the purchase. Chamber President Jim Corcoran says buying the plant would be a bad deal for taxpayers.

"If it starts to not meet its projected expectation, the citizens and businesses of Fairfax County are the ones left holding the bag."

The Covanta plant currently handles a million tons of garbage a year and produces enough energy to light 80,000 homes.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)