Neronha asks DEM to pause, ‘further scrutinize’ approval of application for proposed medical waste facility

West Bay

WEST WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Attorney General Peter Neronha is siding with East Greenwich residents who are concerned about the potential arrival of a new medical waste facility.

MedRecycler, which is a subsidiary of Sun Pacific Holding Corp., is hoping to take up residence at 1600 Division Road in West Warwick, near the East Greenwich town line.

The proposed facility has drawn ire from environmentalists and those who live nearby, many of whom have raised both environmental and health concerns.

The facility plans to use pyrolysis to get rid of the waste, which MedRecycler CEO Nicholas Campanella said can generate renewable energy not only for their building, but also for a portion of the surrounding area.

But Kevin Burdis, a staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, said Campanella’s claims are false, and the facility will work against the Act on Climate bill that Gov. Dan McKee signed into law last week.

“If the state of Rhode Island is going to actually meet its renewable energy goals, reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment, we can’t be building facilities like this,” Burdis said.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has already provided MedRecycler with a “notice of intent” to approve the project, but admitted they still need to evaluate whether the company meets the standards of the medical waste facility license regulations.

But Neronha is urging the state agency to take an even closer look at the application.

In a letter sent to the DEM Thursday, Neronha expressed concern over deficiencies in the application process for the project.

Neronha said the technology the company will be using has not been fully vetted, and the application lacks the necessary state planning and municipal zoning approvals. He also said the minor source permit submitted for the facility does not include public notice nor comment.

“The regulatory process required in our state to approve facilities that emit pollutants into our environment has to be robust and complete to protect public health and the environment,” Neronha said in a statement. “In matters like these, involving untested technology, strict adherence to the regulatory scheme’s substantive requirements, and going beyond the minimum public input required, is absolutely critical.”

Neronha requested the DEM pause the approval process for the facility “until proper analysis and certifications are completed.”

“There is a lot that is unknown about this new technology,” he said. “We must be satisfied that it is thoroughly tested for its impact on the environment and on the health and safety of facility employees and the general public before it is approved.”

In response to Neronha’s concerns, Campanella said they couldn’t agree more that the application needs to be thoroughly scrutinized.

“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,” Campanella said in a statement. “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,” he continued.

A spokesperson for the DEM said they received more than 600 public comments regarding the facility, and they “will carefully consider all of the issues and points that were raised among all of the comments that were submitted,” including Neronha’s.

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