Medrecycler-RI wants to open just over the EG line in West Warwick using a technique rare in the U.S.
Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35) and Rep. Justine Caldwell (D-Dist. 30), who both represent East Greenwich, said in a press release last week they “are strongly opposing” Medrecycler-RI, a medical waste recycling facility at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick just over the East Greenwich line.
“This isn’t the clean energy its developer claims it is. This technology is criticized as being inefficient, because it takes so much energy to superheat the waste. But even more critically, it’s unsafe. Pyrolysis is used to burn other types of waste, but medical waste would be a new use,” Valverde said.
The pyrolysis technique was one of the issues discussed at a virtual informational session hosted by the state Dept. of Environmental Management in late January, where the company’s CEO, Nicholas Campanella, and a representative from the company supplying the pyrolysis system fielded questions from the public. Valverde and Caldwell were on that call as well. (You can watch the entire session on the EG News Facebook page HERE; the sound comes on at 4 minutes in!)
The company is working its way through regulatory hurdles from both DEM and the Town of West Warwick. Valverde and Caldwell want East Greenwich to have a say because of the site’s location – all traffic in and out of the site travels on Division Road. A number of EG residents have also expressed concern and the Town of East Greenwich appealed a DEM decision granting Medrecycler-RI a “minor source” air pollution permit both to DEM and in Superior Court. (New England Tech, which is located across the street from the Medrecycler site, signed on to the Superior Court appeal).
In the appeal, the town argued it should have had a chance to comment as an abutter. Minor source permits do not require public hearings, where EG would have had a chance to comment, but EG argued the technology is not widely used and has never been used in Rhode Island, requiring a different standard.
Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter dismissed the town’s appeal in August but allowed the town to amend its complaint. After a subsequent hearing in October, the judge appointed former Chief Justice Frank Williams as mediator. The focus of the talks has been on what sorts of conditions could be placed on the air permit to protect health and safety, according to town lawyer Peter Skwirz. DEM ruled against the town in September.
At the nearly three-hour information session Jan. 25, Campanella fielded a number of questions on everything from why this particular location, to how many trucks will be in and out of the facility, to more technical questions about pyrolysis.
When asked by EG resident Devorah Brumberger why he chose Rhode Island (he lives in New Jersey), Campanella said the state was supportive of renewable energy and job creation and was centrally located in New England. Later he added the site’s location close to Route 95 was also a bonus. When asked why they weren’t locating at Quonset, which has a number of industrial businesses, Campanella said they would have had to build their own building and that was “cost prohibitive.”
Medrecycler-RI is leasing the 48,000-square-foot Division Road site which is part of a 500,000 building.
Campenella told EG’s Tracie Kosakowski the facility would be processing “regulated medical waste,” adding, “those red containers in doctors’ offices will come to us.”
Kevin Budris from the Conservation Law Foundation has called pyrolysis simply a type of incineration, with potentially dangerous emissions. Pyrolysis uses high heat to essentially melt the waste.
Richard Bingham, with Technotherm, Inc., a South African company on tap to supply the pyrolysis system, said on Jan. 25 pyrolysis was not incineration because there was no oxygen in pyrolysis.
“If there are any potential emissions, they are destroyed. In the case of this facility, the chance of fugitive emissions is zero,” Bingham said. “I’d be happy to put this in my garden.”
Other questions focused on how the medical waste would be delivered to the facility. Campanella said it would receive 35 to 70 tons a day, the equivalent of four to eight truckloads. When asked who would be inspecting the truck contents, he said the company would only contract with registered waste haulers who would be delivering waste in sealed containers, so there would be no need to inspect the contents of each truck as it arrived.
“Whoever the hauler is is going to give us a manifest, with a complete tracking system from when they pick it up to our facility,” Campanella said. He noted there would be no radioactive materials.
Bingham said that 70 tons of material that would formerly have gone to the landfill after it was sterilized would, through the pyrolysis technique, be reduced to about a quarter of the waste.
EG resident Amy Putrino asked Campanella about future growth, quoting his words to the West Warwick Planning Board about the “great expansion opportunity” at the site. Campenella said they did have the room to double their operation but had no immediate plans to expand.
He said the facility would have “plenty of failsafe systems.”
The two legislators remain unconvinced, as have some residents of EG, many of whom have signed a petition against the facility started by EG’s Denise Lopez which has garnered more than 2,000 signatures.
“The town of East Greenwich gets no revenue whatsoever from this proposal, but its people suffer just as much risk as West Warwick. We will have the emissions, the trucks in our neighborhood, the potential for accidents, and the questionable material being brought into the area without anyone on the receiving end ensuring that it is safe and that its contents are what it purports to be. It is unconscionable that our town leaders would have no standing in this matter when the abutting properties are in East Greenwich,” said Rep. Caldwell.
DEM is holding a formal hearing on Medrecycler-RI’s application for a major source permit for water discharge on Monday, March 15. Interested parties can submit comments in advance of the hearing to DEM’s Office of Land Revitalization and Sustainable Materials Management ([email protected]). Here’s a DEM fact sheet about the project: Medrecycler Fact Sheet. You can find additional information about the project on their website HERE.
Previous EG News stories on Medrecycler-RI:
Public to Hear from Medrecycler Jan. 25
Town Handed 2 Legal Setbacks
West Warwick Medical Recycling Plant Would Use High Heat Technology
Town Appeals Permit for West Warwick Medical Waste Plant
EG Seeks More Input on Planned West Warwick Recycling Plant