Above: The proposed medical recycler at 1600 Division Road sits in West Warwick but is only accessible through East Greenwich.
By Hope McKinney
At a virtual Town Council meeting Tuesday night, councilors and a couple of residents weighed in on a medical waste recycling facility planned for 1600 Division Road, a section of West Warwick accessible only through East Greenwich in the vicinity of New England Tech.
The hope had been that the project’s applicant, Nicholas Campanella of New Jersey, would be part of the discussion but after Campanella expressed initial enthusiasm about explaining his proposed business – MedRecycler – to the Town Council, he failed to show up to the virtual meeting.
“He was concerned there was a lot of misinformation that was out there and he wanted to get his side of the story told,” said Town Solicitor Andy Teitz of Campanella after they talked May 5.
Ultimately, however, Campanella had Rhode Island lawyer Michael Kelly reach out to Teitz. On Tuesday afternoon, Kelly told Teitz the applicant had not been given enough notice. Teitz disagreed with that assertion. In the absence of the applicant, the only comments about the plan were skeptical.
Amy Putrino of 1578 Division Road (across the street from where the facility will be housed) said she attended a West Warwick Planning Board meeting a year ago and asked questions that have yet to be answered.
Denise Lopez, another resident, expressed concerned about such a facility so close to residential neighborhoods.
“The risks of this type of technology being used so close to residential areas is very concerning as not much testing has been done,” she wrote in a Facebook message.
Town Councilor Renu Englehart, who lives on Division Road, has been asking questions about this project for several months.
“If I wasn’t on the council, I would still oppose this project,” Englehart said Tuesday. “This is such an unknown type of technology. This project is supposed to be a 24-hour-a-day business with a technology that’s known for the hazardous waste he’s trying to process there.”
The frustration many expressed was that the facility would be in West Warwick in name (and tax rolls) only. Getting to and from the site would require traveling on East Greenwich roads. If there was an accident at the facility, for instance, East Greenwich firefighters would probably be the first on the scene.
“As a town that’s almost fully affected by the project with the exception of the building, we have a right to know,” Englehart said. In addition, she noted, 1600 Division Road abuts a childcare facility.
Town Councilor Caryn Corenthal said she also had many questions, especially since she lives off of Division Street.
“It says in their statement that their inspections of the facility are done by their representatives,” Corenthal said. “That sounds to me like the wolf guarding the chicken coop.”
The project has been proceeding through West Warwick municipal regulatory hurdles as well as Dept. of Environmental Management hearings. So far, the West Warwick Planning Board has granted the project “master plan approval,” the largely conceptual first step in a three-step process. Engineering studies and DEM approvals are required before the proposal proceeds.
DEM did approve an air permit for the facility on May 7 without taking public comment (as was their purview). The Town Council discussed whether or not to appeal that approval in executive session Tuesday.
“Action was taken,” said Council President Mark Schwager following executive session. “Results are not going to be released at this time because they involve litigation.”
DEM will still have to consider a solid waste permit for the site.
The public will be allowed to comment when DEM hears the solid waste permit application since it is considered the main permit for the facility.
Coincidentally, the New York Times reported Tuesday (find the link HERE) Campanella has been linked to a case against New Jersey used car dealer Ronald Romano, arrested early Tuesday on federal wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges for posing as an authorized 3M dealer and offering New York City 7 million masks at a more than 400 percent markup at the height of the pandemic in that city.
Campanella denied any involvement and said he only put Romano in touch with a hedge fund that had masks.
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