The possibility of sending solid waste off-Island via barge was discussed Tuesday at the monthly Steamship Authority governors’ meeting, held in the library conference room at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Tisbury and Oak Bluffs, who together form one of Martha’s Vineyard’s two refuse districts, are evaluating the feasibility of transporting solid waste via port-to-port container freight service between the Vineyard and New Bedford. The change, which the towns say would save them money, would mean fewer trash trucks on Steamship Authority freight boats.
In the past, refuse has been shipped to the mainland and then hauled to refuse facilities. But the towns recently entered into a new waste disposal contract with the Greater New Bedford Regional Refuse Management District.
Tisbury director of public works Fred LaPiana told the governors Tuesday that the towns are looking at cost-efficient ways to transfer trash to New Bedford, chiefly barge service, which would be less expensive than the current method.
As it is now, the towns transport waste via Steamship Authority freight boats on a daily basis. The waste is then delivered by truck to a facility in Rochester.
SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said yesterday that the boatline will likely have no role in barging trash directly to New Bedford, with the towns potentially using the R.M. Packer Company’s terminals.
The authority has looked at freight service from the Island to New Bedford, but concluded that it was not feasible because of the distance, time and cost.
But barging would remove between four and six trucks a day that travel via SSA freight boats, Mr. Lamson said, and could free up space for other vehicles. The SSA would no longer get revenue from those trips, he said, but over time other vehicles would take the space.
“I could envision trucks that are now being carried on the large vessels will now be moved to the freight boat,” he said. “It might free up deck space for residents.”
“We’re glad to see the district is looking into this,” Mr. Lamson said. “If it’s good for the Island, that would be excellent.”
Mr. LaPiana said the proposal would mean traffic reduction on boats, on the Woods Hole Road and through the town of Falmouth. “If we’re able to start this transportation endeavor, even on the smallest of scales, it would open up doors for further opportunities,” he said.
Mr. LaPiana noted the boatline’s licensing authority over ferry transportation to the two islands, but barging solid waste was already approved through a vote about three years ago.
The news was greeted positively on Tuesday by Falmouth SSA governor Robert Marshall. “For first time in my long career here . . . I am honestly encouraged . . . that we in Falmouth could see some relief, and it’s not that we want relief for the sake of relief, we want relief where it makes sense for all of us,” he said. “If in fact it gets your costs down, and in fact it gets trash off the streets off Woods Hole and Falmouth, we’ve got a home run here.”
In other business, treasurer Robert B. Davis said June traffic for the Steamship Authority is up 5.7 per cent, with traffic to the Vineyard up by 4.7 per cent. Car traffic to the Vineyard is up by 4.6 per cent, he said, and truck traffic is down 3.9 per cent.
The governors approved a proposed winter and spring 2013 operating schedule. The winter schedule (Jan. 1 to April 9) for trips to Martha’s Vineyard start three days earlier and ends eight days earlier than it did in 2012, and the spring schedule (April 10 to May 15) will start eight days earlier and end five days earlier than it did in 2012.
The freight vessel Sankaty or Katama will operate on a triple-crew basis to provide increased vehicle-carrying capacity after 5 p.m. because the Island Home is scheduled to be in repair status during the spring, and the 5:30 a.m. trip from Woods Hole and the 8:30 a.m. trip from Vineyard Haven will no longer be designated as hazardous trips during the spring. Hazardous trucks will be booked on the 7:30 a.m. trip from Woods Hole and the 11 a.m. trip from Vineyard Haven to free space for vehicles on the 8:30 a.m. trip from Vineyard Haven with the Island Home out of commission.
“I do have one question: how come the Vineyard has so many more boats than Nantucket?” joked Nantucket governor H. Flint Ranney.
“That question is out of order,” chairman and New Bedford governor John Tierney responded.