The medical waste company says law isn’t retroactive so it can’t stop the West Warwick facility
The General Assembly has sent a bill to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk that would prohibit facilities using high heat to dispose of medical waste if they are sited near schools, residential areas, nursing facilities or “delicate environmental areas.”
East Greenwich legislators Rep. Justine Caldwell (Dist. 30) and Sen. Bridget Valverde (Dist. 35), spearheaded the legislation (2021-H 5923Aaa, 2021-S 0527) in response to the medical waste disposal facility known as Med-Recycler proposed for West Warwick just over the East Greenwich line.
“Out-of-state developers are not going to use our state to make a buck by bringing medical waste into our neighborhoods, burning it at high temperatures and releasing pollution into our environment,” said Valverde in a recent press release.
“This facility shouldn’t be allowed anywhere, but especially not anywhere near where people live, where children spend their days, or near our water or other environmental resources,” said Caldwell in the same press release. “Our legislation ensures that it isn’t, and that Rhode Island doesn’t become a destination for other people’s trash.”
They both said they thought the legislation could stop Med-Recycler.
Med-Recycler says it cannot.
In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM), lawyers for Med-Recycler note the legislation does not include a retroactive clause, meaning it can only be applied to new applications (Med-Recycler Letter to DEM, 7/2/21). Med-RecyclerRI applied for permits in 2019.
Medrecycler has leased space at 1600 Division Road, in a section of West Warwick bounded by East Greenwich, Route 2 and Route 95. Because of the proposed plant’s proximity to East Greenwich, including the New England Tech (NEIT) campus, a day care, and residential neighborhoods, and because only access to the property is via East Greenwich, EG officials have also expressed concern about the recycling technique, which is not widely used.
Regardless of this legislation, the facility still has several regulatory hurdles to clear before it could begin operations.
DEM approved a “minor source” air permit for MedRecycler-RI in 2020, but the Town of East Greenwich sued over that approval, arguing it should have been able to participate in a public hearing. The town and the company remain in mediation over that issue. Also, DEM is weighing a “major source” solid waste permit for the facility. There was a virtual public hearing for that permit in January that lasted several hours; the majority of people commenting – in opposition – were from East Greenwich.
On the municipal level, MRI has master plan approval from the West Warwick Planning Board. If and when MRI gets its DEM approvals, they would then return to the West Warwick Planning Board for preliminary plan approval. It is at that stage that abutters within a 200-foot radius (that would include the Town of East Greenwich) would be officially notified.
Previous EG News stories on Medrecycler: