With Attorney General Peter Neronha and now Gov. Dan McKee having raised questions about a proposed medical waste facility in West Warwick, don’t expect the drumbeat to stop the project to lessen – or for the company seeking to use a new technology to treat upwards of 70 tons of waste daily to fold up its tent.
Denise Lopez – who grew up in East Greenwich and, after a professional career of consulting in New York and Boston, returned 14 years ago to raise a family – has spearheaded the drive to kill MedRecycler’s proposal to operate from 48,167 square feet of the 549,607-square-foot industrial-zoned building at 1600 Division St.
“We’re going to keep the conversation going,” Lopez vowed Friday.
Neronha released a letter on the deadline for submittal of comments to the Department of Environmental Management. The Attorney General called on DEM for a “stay its review of MRI’s application until the proper technology analysis is conducted and all required certifications are obtained pursuant to the Refuse Disposal Act and its implementing Medical Waste regulations.”
Asked at his Tuesday press conference if he supported a stay of the project until further study is completed, Gov. McKee urged caution, adding that the “verdict is out” on the safety of the MedRecycler technology. He also suggested an additional hearing.
In response to Neronha’s letter, spokeswoman Gail Mastrati emailed, “The public comment period for the proposed MedRecycler facility closed on April 14. DEM received over 600 comments, including from the RI Attorney General, members of the General Assembly, and municipal officials. DEM staff will carefully consider all of the issues and points that were raised among all of the comments that were submitted. Given that the Department must evaluate and respond to comments on the record as part of its decision-making process, it is not appropriate for DEM to respond to the substance of any individual letters at this time.”
Lopez is encouraged by Neronha’s letter.
“We’re pleased someone is speaking up on the part of the people,” she said.
It’s not that the plans of MedRecycler have gone unnoticed.
The facility that would use pyrolysis, a system of super heating material in the absence of oxygen so that it doesn’t ignite but releases syngases that are then burned to generate electricity, has been the subject of intense debate. State and local officials have registered their objection and DEM has received in excess of 600 written comments.
MetRecycler isn’t backing off.
“The Attorney General correctly states that our proposal should be subject to thorough scrutiny – we couldn’t agree more. This is why we have submitted an 800-page application to DEM and worked with them and the West Warwick Planning Board for more than two years to make certain that we are a safe and valued neighbor in Rhode Island,” reads a statement attributed to Nicholas Campanella, chairman and CEO of Sun Pacific Holding Corp., the parent company of MedRecycler.
“We have also agreed to dozens of safety conditions already required by DEM, and anticipate that there will be more. We look forward to operating a facility that will create jobs and renewable energy in a safe, responsible way, while extending the life of the Central Landfill and generating millions in tax revenue for the community," reads the statement.
In an op-ed appearing in today’s Beacon, Campanella corrected what he terms as misinformation about the MedRecycler proposal.
In his letter to the DEM, Neronha said, “The regulatory process required to build this first-of-its-kind medical waste facility is intended to be robust due to the inherent health and safety risks involved in processing and disposing of potentially infectious waste, especially when adjacent to residential communities.”
He goes on to write, “Unmitigated, pyrolysis has the potential to emit many of the same toxic and noxious pollutants that necessitated the phase out of medical waste incinerators nationwide. Accordingly, in order to protect the health and safety of Rhode Island and its citizens, it is imperative that the State’s regulatory review hold MRI’s application to the most stringent applicable standards. To date, they have not been held to those standards.”
The Attorney General was also critical of DEM’s review of the MedRecycler application.
He writes, “Further, the public should have been provided ample and meaningful opportunities to comment and question RIDEM’s consideration of the technology at each stage, including the minor source permitting process, to ensure that all of the unknowns are being adequately considered, planned for, and addressed in a manner that satisfies the expressed concerns.”