By JOHN HOWELL At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced it has denied the Medrecycler-RI Inc. application to build a medical waste-to-energy plant at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick - 90 days after
At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced it has denied the Medrecycler-RI Inc. application to build a medical waste-to-energy plant at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick – 90 days after a three-hour online hearing where testimony focused on the unproven consequences of the proposed pyrolysis technology to dispose of the waste.
At 4:51, a leader in the fight against the operation across the street from New England Institute of Technology, a golf course and next door to a daycare center sent a three-word email with a copy of the DEM release.
Denise Lopez wrote, “We did it.”
But as of Wednesday, it could not be determined whether this is the end of the battle.
Nicholas Campanella, chairman and CEO of Sun Pacific Holding Corp., the parent company of Medrecycler, issued the following statement: “This decision makes it perfectly clear why Rhode Island’s business climate was ranked 46th out of the 50 states earlier today. The company will consider all of its legal options, of which there are many.”
Playing a key role going forward is legislation Gov. Dan McKee signed into law Friday that makes it illegal for a high-heat medical waste disposal plant to operate within 2,000 feet of a school, residential areas, parks, open space and waters.
In its release, DEM said the law was influential in its decision.
“The Department believes that regardless of the deficiencies in the application outlined above, this law would prohibit the Department from issuing or granting a permit or license for this proposed facility,” reads the release.
In a July 2 letter to DEM, attorney Michael Kelly argues on behalf of Medrecycler that the legislation should not be considered as it unconstitutionally targets Medrecycler and that the company “has spent millions of dollars in reliance on the law as it existed at the time of the application.”
In addition to citing the law, DEM found the proposal to use pyrolysis, a process of using intense heat without the introduction of oxygen to break down medical waste into gas that would be used to generate energy. The Medrecycler application called for the processing of 70 tons of medical waste daily that it argued would save space from disposal at the state landfill.
According to the release, DEM sided with many of those opposed to the plant.
It reads, “The proposal did not include adequate details about testing protocols, necessary for public review, as part of the permit review process for a medical waste treatment plant.
“The proposal’s contingency and response plans – what happens in the event of an emergency? – are incomplete. Many of the 400 members of the public who commented during the application’s comment period cited concerns about the proposal’s lack of strong environmental monitoring and safety plans. DEM shares these concerns.
“Related, DEM found the proposal’s lack of clarity about how much and where medical waste would be safely stored to be a critical deficiency in the application. This impacts the proposed operation, monitoring requirements, contingency planning, and closure assurances.
“The facility is proposed in a densely populated area close to residential neighborhoods, making the public review of the contingency plans and testing protocols even more relevant. There is no buffer between the proposed facility and other tenants located at that address and little buffer between the facility and surrounding community.
“Uncertainty over the impacts of the proposed facility’s innovative technology. This proposed system has not previously been used on medical waste.”
Lopez applauded the DEM Wednesday for having listened to the people. She is watching to see whether Medrcycler will appeal the decision within 30 days.
And what if the company does?
“I didn’t come this far to step away,” she said.