DEM denies medical waste to energy facility permit

“We knew the proposal to burn medical waste in our community was bad news. Application denied!” tweeted State Senator Bridget Valverde. “And with the new law passed by me, @Justine4RI, and our colleagues, it can’t go anywhere else in our state.”
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Published on July 14, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced Tuesday that it has denied the permit application of Medrecycler-RI Inc to build a medical waste-to-energy plant at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick. You can read the denial here.

DEM cited the following factors in denying the application:

  • 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.

The facility, originally proposed for Johnston, took aim at the West Warwick location over a year ago and was issued a conditional permit by DEM. Opposition to the facility developed swiftly, even despite Covid, with the Rhode Island Attorney General expressing concerns and the Rhode Island General Assembly passing legislation outlawing high heat medical waste facilities in the state. Governor Daniel McKee signed the bill into law July 9.

“The Department of Environmental Management made the right decision in denying the permit application for the proposed medical waste treatment facility in West Warwick, and I am grateful for their close review of a proposal that would have impacted many Rhode Islanders,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha in a statement. “Several months ago, my Office expressed our concerns about the significant environmental and public health impacts that the waste treatment facility presented to surrounding communities. This decision is an apt example of the benefit of having a comprehensive state regulatory process that includes robust public input.”

“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,” DEM wrote in its denial.

The story may not be over. Ted Nesi reports that Medrecycler Inc is considering legal action.

Articles about the proposed Medrecyler facility:

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