The Southwest Division''s roots go back well beyond CRRA's creation in 1973:
1898: The Heppenstall Steel Company is founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Sam Heppenstall.
1899: The United Illuminating Company (UI) is formed when the Bridgeport Electric Company merges with the New Haven Electric Company. Today, UI is a regional distribution utility providing electricity and energy-related services to more than 320,000 customers in the greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas. UI doesn't generate electricity, but purchases, transmits, distributes and sells it to residential, commercial and industrial customers in a service area of about 335 square miles. Today, this service area includes the principal cities of Bridgeport and New Haven and their surrounding municipalities: Ansonia, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Hamden, Milford, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Shelton, Stratford, Trumbull, West Haven and Woodbridge. The population of this area is approximately 726,000 or 21 percent of Connecticut's population.
1923: In January, C. W. Heppenstall is elected president of the Heppenstall Company, a position he will hold until he is elected Chairman of the Board in 1939. The company under his management grows from a $50,000 organization to a $10 million organization, and in addition to the Pittsburgh Plant, has a plant located in Bridgeport, a warehouse in Detroit and district offices in all the large cities of the United States. The use of forge manipulators and steam hydraulic presses are among C. W. Heppenstall’s outstanding contributions to the steel industry.
1932: The American Foundry Equipment Company becomes The Wheelabrator Corporation after the company developed the airless centrifugal wheel, a simple mechanical unit that uses controlled centrifugal force instead of compressed air for abrasive blasting. The rapidly spinning wheel hurled a variety of carefully sized abrasives at steel, concrete and other industrial surfaces that needed cleaning, hence “wheel” + “abrator”. In the 1960s Wheelabrator-Frye Inc. is founded. Wheelabrator-Frye combines Frye Industries, which produces specialty printing inks and copy paper for business forms, and The Wheelabrator Corporation.
1967: The Heppenstall Co. goes out of business .
1970: The passage of the Federal Clean Air Act spurs demand for air pollution-control equipment such as baghouses (or fabric-filters) and acid gas scrubbers produced by Wheelabrator APC. It also sets in motion a three-decade long regulatory and legislative process to discover alternatives to old, polluting waste incinerators.
1972: Wheelabrator acquires Rust Engineering Company, leading designer and builder of pulp and paper plants, from Litton Industries. The acquisition of Rust helps Wheelabrator become a pioneer in the waste-to-energy industry.
1973: The CRRA board votes to select Bridgeport as its first site for a regional trash-to-energy ( TTE ) project.
1974: The Heppenstall building at 95 Howard Ave. in Bridgeport is demolished.
Bridgeport , Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, Stratford, Trumbull and Westport sign agreements establishing the Greater Bridgeport Regional Solid Waste Commission (GBRSWC).
CRRA purchases 7.98 acres in Bridgeport for the site of its first TTE facility.
On Aug. 6, six towns ( Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull) pass resolutions approving execution of a long-term contract with CRRA.
On Dec. 30, CRRA signs contracts with nine Bridgeport-area municipalities. The Bridgeport plant reaches adequate tonnage levels without New Milford, a town whose participation was initially thought to be necessary to reach adequate levels.
1975: GBRSWC signs an interlocal agreement with CRRA for development of a TTE facility.
On July 21, CRRA contracts Occidental Petroleum Co. (Occidental) for the design, construction and maintenance of the Bridgeport facility.
In the face of a new and demanding marketplace, Wheelabrator opens the United States' first commercially successful waste-to-energy facility in Saugus, Mass.
1976: CRRA issues bonds for construction of the GBRSWC TTE facility.
CRRA contracts with CEA-OXY Resources Recovery Associates Inc., a joint venture of Combustion Equipment Associates, Inc., and Occidental Petroleum Corporation, to design, construct and operate the GBRSWC facility and project transfer stations.
The Bridgeport TTE plant is expected to be mechanically complete by Sept. 23, 1976.
1979: In March, three years after the first expected completion date, the main facility of the Bridgeport Project is 95 percent complete (mechanical completion was expected on April 15).
On April 24, the facility is approaching final completion. Waste begins to be processed in May. The contractor plans to run 1,000 tons in the first month. Three storage silos have also been erected and are to be fully operational by June 1. Eco-Fuel, a fine brownish powder made from the ground garbage, should begin to burn in United Illuminating’s (UI) Unit Number 1 at its Bridgeport Harbor Station in June. The Bridgeport TTE facility is the first large-scale manufacturer of the powder and UI is the first electric company to use it regularly. (CRRA paid for installation of new equipment at the electric company’s generating station.) Burning the fuel generates electricity, which is then distributed and sold to residential, commercial and industrial customers. UI purchases the powder at a price below what it would pay for an equivalent amount of oil. Eco-Fuel II is mixed with oil before being burned at the generating station.
Commercial operation of the facility is expected to begin at the end of the year.
During the weekend of May 12-13, testing of the plant begins with running one line and producing some fuel. The system is tested again on May 19-20. The purpose is to test the whole process line to discover any minor changes that might need to be made.
On June 20, trial tests of the Bridgeport TTE plant are halted when an explosion occurred at 2:30 p.m. during routine start-up tests, caused by a faulty fuel level sensor. The blast occurred when fuel in one of the plant’s six-story silos outside the plant caught fire. The plant’s sprinkler system contained the fire, but the Bridgeport Fire Department also responded in case it was needed. All fuel level sensors are replaced before testing resumes two months later.
On June 26, the system is completed and turned over to operating personnel.
In September, the facility is in “initial operations”. Dynamic testing is being done at UI’s Bridgeport Harbor Station. The past month went smoothly. Test burning would soon begin.
On Sept. 18, another explosion occurs at 11:53 a.m., causing a small fire and injuring two employees. It is contained in the fuel filter section of the plant and in part of the adjoining storage silo. It is extinguished by the plant’s sprinkler systems and Bridgeport firefighters.
In October, the facility is in the process of being restarted and testing resumes after getting approval from consulting engineer CSI that was investigating the June blast over five weeks ago. The new target date for commercial operation is set for July 1980.
In the late 1970s, Wheelabrator-Frye acquires MPB Corporation, a maker of precision bearings; Whiting Corporation, whose giant cranes are used in nuclear power plants and energy-efficient evaporators; and Neptune International Corporation, provider of residential water meters and industrial flow meters.
1980: On January 17, the CEA president addresses the CRRA board with concerns about the UI facility. He says there are problems regarding burning Eco-Fuel II because of the DEP’s sulfur emissions standards which limit sulfur in fuel to 0.5 percent. (Garbage does not have much sulfur in it but a sulfur substance is sprayed onto the trash during processing to make the material more brittle and easier to grind into the fine powder.) Early tests in December 1979 were made with a mixture containing only 2 percent Eco-Fuel, but UI hoped to hike the Eco-Fuel portion to 7-10 percent; the lower the sulfur content of the fuel, the higher that percentage was likely to be.
In February, problems arise at the Bridgeport facility because storage capacity is being used up. CEA needs to apply for a permit variance.
On March 25, a Ul representative reports to the CRRA board that the company has been able to buy oil with less than the usual sulfur content, enabling it to reach a higher burn rate while staying within the DEP’s SO 2 standards.
On April 2, the Bridgeport plant is operating and in the process of shutdown, but the ball mill is still running. A clog forces the plant to shut down. A small explosion results from a spark, activating fire equipment. No personnel are harmed and there is no structural damage. It is a good engineering test because it shows that the equipment reacts properly.
On June 24, CEA organizes a task force of CEA engineers to iron out problems with the facility.
In August, the facility is shut down for one week for major repairs. That month, the facility experiences odor problems due to three weeks of intense heat. Work is done on the ducts and fans are installed to combat the smell. The UI plant also experiences spiking (smoke from the stacks) while burning Eco-Fuel II.
On Sept. 23, with odor problems persisting, CRRA receives a summons from the neighboring Acricite Company, claiming that the Bridgeport plant was a nuisance and should be shut down. President Brenneman represents CRRA in a court hearing the next day. Meanwhile, UI has been burning Eco-Fuel II under a special emergency procedure set to expire Sept. 28. CEA moves ahead towards obtaining the permit variance.
On Oct. 20, Occidental tells CRRA that the CEA Board of Directors decided to file under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Act. This is different from other bankruptcy filings because the company could propose a payment plan to repay debts while staying in business, as it is contracted as a joint venture with Occidental. In this way, Occidental promises to provide the money for the debt service on Nov. 14 if CEA isn’t able to do so, and it will assume all of CEA’s responsibilities. The manner in which the Bridgeport contract is structured anticipates a situation like this. The structure protects towns, CRRA and the state from incurring any financial damages. Although this decision is made, activity at the facility has not changed.
On Nov. 18, CEA files for a motion to the federal court under the Bankruptcy Act to disaffirm its contracts as contractor of the Bridgeport system and co-contractor with OXY. The Nov. 14 debt payment is settled by a $2.3 million deposit by OXY. The plant is closed for 30 days.
On Dec. 19, OXY takes over operations of the interim service and facility after CEA is absolved of its constructive obligations outlined in the contract by court.
1981: The old Heppenstall site is being redeveloped for use as a biomass conversion plant operated by CRRA. During the development of the plant 23,000 cubic yards of fill is placed on the site. (The plant was apparently never completed.)
By June 25, OXY has made no progress. In May, OXY meets with CEA to draft a proposal that is never developed. In May and June, Oxy brings in CE to work with them to structure a go-forward project to bring about a relationship between CE and CRRA, thereby removing itself entirely from the project. On May 26, CRRA meets with OXY and CEA to discuss alternatives. Because no agreement is reached, CRRA plans to sue to make OXY perform its obligations. The Board grants the Chairman and President full control over legal decision-making based on advice from counsel and what is in the best interest of CRRA and Bridgeport municipalities.
On July 14, CRRA files an injunctive action seeking temporary and permanent injunctions to keep the defendants (OXY) from discontinuing their obligation as threatened.
On Nov. 17, CRRA files for arbitration against OXY which plans to discontinue interim service to the Bridgeport area communities on January 15, 1982. The CRRA board agrees to withhold legal action if OXY agrees to arbitrability of the construction contract, hold arbitration proceedings in Hartford and begin procedural matters.
On November 24, OXY refuses to accept.
In December, OXY files a court action to avoid arbitration and serves a notice to CRRA saying that it intends to discontinue service on January 15, 1982.
1982: CRRA begins planning for redevelopment of the Bridgeport facility.
CEA’s board approves a general plan of reorganization that has received tentative acceptance from its creditors. Under the plan, the company will be recapitalized and its resulting stock distributed.
1983: CRRA awards the contract for reconstruction of the Bridgeport Project facility to Signal-Resco, a subsidiary of Wheelabrator Environmental Systems, Inc. CRRA purchases the Shelton landfill to serve the Bridgeport Project.
1985: On Dec. 1, CRRA and UI enter into an Electric Power Purchase Agreement governing sales of electric power to UI from a solid waste-fueled electric power generating facility to be constructed and operated by Resco.
On Dec. 31, $255 million worth of bonds are sold to finance construction of the TTE facility. Under the agreement with CRRA, Resco provides 25 percent of the capital and the remainder is raised from service fees charged to member towns.
1988: The Bridgeport Project TTE facility, governed by the Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB), begins operations. Member towns include Greenwich, Darien, Norwalk, Wilton, Weston, Easton, Fairfield, Bridgeport, Trumbull, Monroe, Shelton, Orange and Milford.
In July, Wheelabrator and Waste Management Inc., the world's largest waste management company, enter into a merger agreement to acquire common stock shares of Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. (WTI) amounting to a 22-percent ownership interest.
1989: SWAB provides funding to help establish the Southwest Connecticut Regional Recycling Operating Committee (SWEROC) to establish the region's recycling program.
1990: In 1990, WTI becomes a majority-owned subsidiary of Waste Management.
1990: In April, SWEROC receives a $9.2 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to fund its towns' capital expenditures for their recycling programs.
In December, CRRA agrees to fund public ownership of the SWEROC regional recycling facility. Stratford becomes a permanent member of SWAB in exchange for agreeing to host the recycling facility.
1991: Unused boiler capacity at the Bridgeport TTE facility allows SWAB to add three new members: East Haven, Woodbridge and Bethany.
1993: Member town trash deliveries have declined by 32 percent since the facility opened in 1989. CRRA is concerned that local flow-control laws, which designate the final destinations for a town's trash, are being violated and trash is being diverted to lower-cost disposal facilities. Some member towns' trash is also being improperly delivered to the Bridgeport plant as spot-market trash, for which the tip fee is lower.
Construction of the SWEROC regional recycling facility is completed.
1994: The U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision that invalidates local flow control laws, ruling they violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. This ruling makes it more difficult for member towns to ensure that private haulers are delivering their trash to the Bridgeport plant. CRRA expresses concern this could adversely impact the project's finances.
The Garbage Museum, adjacent to the SWEROC recycling facility in Stratford, opens. The museum teaches children and families about recycling and taking care of their environment by properly managing their trash.
1995: With member trash deliveries still below earlier levels, CRRA negotiates an agreement with Wheelabrator in which Wheelabrator forgives member towns of roughly $8 million in minimum commitment payments.
1998: With disposal fees at $87 per ton, SWAB towns approve a plan to re-finance the project's debt and allow CRRA to compete for non-municipal trash in the open market.
1999: Member towns' disposal fees hit $89.50 a ton.
2000: The project disposal fee is lowered to $67. The lower fee causes deliveries to soar from about 320,000 tons in FY 1999 to over 345,000 tons in FY 2000. The new pricing structure works, as deliveries top 380,000 tons by FY 2003.
2006: With the current agreement set to expire on Dec. 31, 2008, CRRA receives authorization from the SWAB towns to negotiate a new or extended agreement with Wheelabrator. CRRA declares its intention to provide the SWAB towns with future disposal options in 2007. Though under the agreement Wheelabrator can take beneficial ownership of the TTE plant for $1 at the end of the contract, CRRA’s goal is to ensure that the plant’s disposal capacity remains a public benefit. CRRA also seeks a new long-term energy purchase agreement with UI.
2007: The arbitration panel rules that the CRRA and Wheelabrator must resume good-faith negotiations.
Today, at full capacity, the plant can generate more than 60,000 kilowatts of electrical energy for sale to The United Illuminating Company (UI). This is the equivalent of supplying all of the electrical needs of 75,000 Connecticut homes.
2008: CRRA secures enough capacity at the Bridgeport trash-to-energy plant to offer a new solid waste disposal agreement to towns in southwestern Connecticut. Six towns leave the Bridgeport Project at the end of 2008, but the remainder of the Bridgeport Project towns sign on with the new CRRA Southwest Division.
2009: SWEROC reaches a new agreement with FCR to continue to operate the Stratford regional recycling facility at no cost to participating towns. Six towns leave SWEROC effective June 30, 2009, and the reduction of tons of recyclables processed at the center will no longer be sufficient to fund the Garbage Museum, which must now raise all its own money.
2011: On August 25, the CRRA Board of Directors determines that fund-raising efforts are not sufficient to keep the Garbage Museum operating and votes to close the Garbage Museum immediately. Just before 4 p.m., the last of the 358,077 people who took part in the Museum's programs leaves and the doors are locked.