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Senator Valverde and Rep Caldwell oppose medical waste burning proposal on East Greenwich line

“What is being proposed is that medical waste, in the quantity of tons, will be introduced to our state roadways to its destination that is nestled next to residential communities, New England Tech, restaurants, local businesses and a child care facility,” said East Greenwich resident Denise Lopez. “Untested and unproven technology that will import medical waste into our state, our roadways and into our communities should not be permitted in close proximity to residential areas.”

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Senator Bridget Valverde and Representative Justine Caldwell are strongly opposing a proposal to build a medical waste treatment plant on the East Greenwich-West Warwick border.

MedRecycler-RI Inc is seeking approval to construct a facility that plans to accept 70 tons of medical waste daily from across New England and burn it at extreme temperatures through a process called “pyrolysis,” which turns the waste into energy, along with oil and tar byproducts.

The facility would be located at 1600 Division Road, West Warwick, behind a child care center and across the street from New England Institute of Technology, both of which are in East Greenwich.

The two legislators, whose districts include the East Greenwich area the facility would abut, argue that the location is inappropriate and that the proposal could expose Rhode Islanders to numerous potential hazards.

“This isn’t the clean energy its developer claims it is. This technology is criticized as being inefficient, because it takes so much energy to superheat the waste. But even more critically, it’s unsafe. Pyrolysis is used to burn other types of waste, but medical waste would be a new use. No one at this facility would be inspecting deliveries to see just what is being sent to ensure it’s not radioactive or otherwise harmful. This is not the kind of development Rhode Island should be seeking, and the people of our area are not interested in being guinea pigs for this technology,” said Senator Valverde (Democrat, District 35, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The proposal is currently in a permitting process before the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the town of West Warwick. But given its location just steps from East Greenwich, the legislators are seeking a voice for East Greenwich in the permitting process.

“The town of East Greenwich gets no revenue whatsoever from this proposal, but its people suffer just as much risk as West Warwick. We will have the emissions, the trucks in our neighborhood, the potential for accidents, and the questionable material being brought into the area without anyone on the receiving end ensuring that it is safe and that its contents are what it purports to be. It is unconscionable that our town leaders would have no standing in this matter when the abutting properties are in East Greenwich,” said Representative Caldwell (Democrat, District 30, East Greenwich, West Greenwich). “East Greenwich’s very valid concerns demand consideration during this permitting process.”

Many East Greenwich residents are understandably concerned about the proposal.


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“MedRecycler is being proposed in an area zoned  ‘industrial’ but is surrounded by residential communities and is in fact directly behind a child care center,” said East Greenwich resident Denise Lopez. “During DEM’s recent information session, it was clear that the pyrolysis process has not been tested. What is being proposed is that medical waste, in the quantity of tons, will be introduced to our state roadways to its destination that is nestled next to residential communities, New England Tech, restaurants, local businesses and a child care facility. Untested and unproven technology that will import medical waste into our state, our roadways and into our communities should not be permitted in close proximity to residential areas. There is absolutely no way to determine the local impact of this. Who will bear the burden if this plant fails, emits odors or dioxins, or impacts water supplies …WE ALL WILL.”

Senator Valverde and Representative Caldwell urged the public to weigh in on the proposal during the public comment period for the DEM application.

Justine Caldwell

A formal public comment meeting will be held on Zoom on Monday, March 15, at 4 p.m. For the Zoom link and more information, visit http://dem.ri.gov/programs/benviron/waste/pn/pn-medrecycler.pdf.

DEM will also accept written comments until April 14. Written comments can be submitted to: Department of Environmental Management
Office of Land Revitalization and Sustainable Materials Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
Attention: Yan Li
Email: yan.li@dem.ri.gov, (401) 222-2797.

DEM’s final decision will be made within 90 days of the close of the public comment period.


Previous reports on the pyrolysis facility:

About the Author

Bridget Valverde is the State Senator for District 35 (East Greenwich, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Narragansett)

Justine Caldwell is the State representative serving District 30 (East Greenwich, West Greenwich).