East Greenwich residents concerned about new medical waste facility

West Bay

EAST GREENWICH, R.I. (WPRI) — Residents in East Greenwich are worried about a medical waste facility being developed across the town line in West Warwick.

The facility is being developed on Division Road in an industrial park. While the company is zoned industrial, MedRecycler, said they will be disposing of medical waste safely, many residents aren’t convinced.

The concerns stem from the company’s intended use of pyrolysis to get rid of the waste.

“At the end of the day pyrolysis is a fancy label for burning waste,” Attorney Kevin Budris from the Conversation Law Foundation said.

MedRecycler CEO Nicholas Campanella said the process has been around for four decades, and it will actually generate electricity that will be used, in part, to run their building.

“The pyrolysis technology does not burn,” Campanella said. “It’s the absence of oxygen and we’ve been working with the [Department of Environmental Management] for almost two years … [it can] potentially power 1,000 homes in the state of Rhode Island.”

But some East Greenwich residents are adamant that the facility will be problematic for surrounding businesses.

“There is a daycare, there is a business where a thin wall separates MedRecycler from 70 employees,” East Greenwich resident Denise Lopez said.

Lopez said she’s concerned not only that the dangerous toxins will float into the air, but they’ll be released in an area she believes is already congested enough.

But the R.I. DEM has already tentatively approved the business license for the facility, issuing a minor source air permit to MedRecycler in May 2020.

“We’re going to be highly regulated by DEM,” Campanella said.

The Town of East Greenwich filed an appeal to that permit, but it’s currently in mediation in R.I. Superior Court.

“We have a concern that there is an expectation that this testing is going to be done after the fact,” Budris said.

Campanella said the facility will create 30 to 40 jobs on site, as well as 100 trade jobs, and it bring $4 million in tax revenue to the state.

“We’re doing everything that we need to do and we’re following the science and the technology to make sure that everything is being operated properly,” Campanella said.

Some East Greenwich residents are planning on speaking out against the company at a DEM meeting scheduled for March 15, partly because residents aren’t on the board.

“I feel really strongly that people should just take a moment to say something,” East Greenwich resident Catherine Costantino said.

“If something goes wrong, it could really go wrong, and then you are going to put a lot of people at risk,” Lopez added.

MedRecycler tells 12 News they are not operating out of that building right now, though they do have a lease for 48,000 sq. ft., which is only roughly 10% of the 500,000 sq. ft. building.

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