|Neighbors wary of incinerator plan, weary of noise from Walmart DC|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Wednesday, 04 April 2012 13:30|
Weary of the noise and traffic nuisances present since the Walmart Distribution Center was built a decade ago, property owners near the Enterprise East Industrial Park expressed concern last week about the proposed medical waste incinerator facility being planned north of the distribution center.
Representatives from Integrated Waste Management Systems of Pennsylvania, the company with plans to build the facility by the end of 2013, met with nearby residents and landowners the evening of March 29 to review details of the project and answer questions.
While attendees had many questions regarding truck traffic, potential health and safety hazards, noise concerns and the workforce the company intends to hire, they also complained about existing problems connected to the Walmart Distribution Center and feared another industrial project could exacerbate those problems.
Integrated Waste Management Systems’ consultant Janet Herrick from Onsite Environmental Consulting of Jacksonville kicked off the meeting showing a slide presentation about the project to some 25 residents and property owners in attendance.
She said the company’s president Marvin Jay Barry, a retired major general in the US Air Force, and vice president David E. Henritzy, president of Bio-Haz Solutions, a Pennsylvania-based medical waste transportation company, have developed the project “slowly and methodically” so as to “do it right, the first time.”
“They are the dynamic duo,” said Ms. Herrick.
Both men were present for the hour-and-a-half meeting and responded to questions following Ms. Herrick’s presentation.
Darryl Register, director of the Baker County Development Commission that owns the property on which the proposed facility would be constructed, said he’s been working with the company for more than a year on the project and expressed his confidence in both the company and its plans.
“I’m extremely comfortable with the company and even more comfortable with the technology,” said Mr. Register in his opening comments.
The company intends to fill what it termed “rapidly growing need” for medical waste disposal facilities, said Ms. Herrick. She said there are only 57 active bio-medical waste disposal facilities in the nation and only one in Florida that’s “open use,” meaning its available for use by any entity with medical waste.
That facility, located in Apopka, FL, is owned by Stericycle, Inc.
New, stricter environmental regulations on the disposal of such garbage — which consists of human blood, tissue and things that come in contact with them like gauze or needles — will be fully implemented in 2014. They will increase demand even more, said Ms. Herrick, because some existing facilities will not meet the timetable or simply shutdown.
“Those regulations are very, very strict ... I can’t emphasize that enough,” said the consultant, who was hired to do public outreach for the project.
She then explained in general terms the facility’s “environmentally-conscious” design and the process that would incinerate 95 percent of the medical waste entering the facility.
The incinerator will be manufactured by Penram Diversified Manufacturing Corporation, also of Pennsylvania, which Ms. Herrick said has 25 years’ experience in the industry. She said the company has made incinerators and air pollution control systems that are used in 40 countries throughout the world.
The air pollution control system bound for the facility here will use extreme heat and oxygen to burn the waste, explained Ms. Herrick. The resulting gas will then be filtered and the final by-product will be “smokeless, odorless and inert,” she said.
The emissions may not be visible to the naked eye at all times, she said, but under the right weather conditions, the emissions could appear as fog.
Company representatives say the facility’s process will burn away 95 percent of the medical waste and the remaining 5 percent, which has been rendered inert, may be dumped at landfills. Unprocessed medical waste is prohibited in landfills.
The facility will also feature a number of safety protocols that would stop the processing of waste should the system malfunction, representatives said.
Ms. Herrick added that one of the most innovative features of the facility will be its ability to produce electricity to offset its power needs.
The project is being proposed in two phases.
During the initial phase, the company intends to hire 59 workers by the end of 2013. After the second phase is built, the company plans to hire another 40 to 50 employees.
Following Ms. Herrick’s presentation, questions started coming from the audience, many with homes, families or land in the vicinity.
Given the sensitive nature of biological hazardous waste, Dennis Whelan asked, are local fire departments equipped and trained to respond to an emergency?
Mr. Register assured him the Macclenny Fire Department personnel are trained to respond to emergencies involving hazardous materials.
Another questioner asked whether the company would hire local residents rather than import workers from elsewhere. That question brought the company’s president to his feet.
“I’ll be completely up front with you,” said Mr. Barry. “As a veteran myself, I want to look at hiring veterans and local people here from Baker County. They will be given consideration in the employment process.”
Sounds emanating today from the Walmart Distribution Center like tractor trailer air-brakes, backup warning beeps and the center’s loudspeaker system used to direct drivers also drew the ire of residents.
“We get to enjoy all that speaker talk,” said neighboring resident Terry P. Norman. “We haven’t had a peaceful night since that place opened.”
“Will there be any noise barriers?” asked another audience member.
Mr. Register said noise from the proposed facility should not pose a problem because the incinerator and related equipment will be enclosed inside buildings.
He also said he believed that management at the Walmart Distribution Center would be happy to address the concerns voiced by neighboring residents that evening.
“They’re always willing to work with the community,” said Mr. Register.
Integrated Waste Management Systems’ incinerator facility is expected to draw some 5-10 delivery trucks a day during phase one and an estimated 15-20 trucks per day by build-out, according to company representatives.
The size of the smokestack, which will require a height variance granted by the Baker County Commission, is estimated to be under 100 feet. “We will have the minimum stack height required for the facility,” said Mr. Barry.
Residents also voiced concerns regarding air quality, saying that winds typically blow from the northwest, which puts residents in the Allen Acres and Mattox Farm subdivisions and those in a mobile home park on US 90 directly downwind of the proposed facility.
Company representatives reiterated that the facility will be built to comply with the most stringent air quality standards the federal government has ever had. And should the facility malfunction, it will automatically shut down, said Ms. Herrick.
Near the end of the meeting, county commissioner Jimmy Anderson, a builder and construction contractor himself, said the environmental regulations in place today from the St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency are more than adequate to safeguard public health.
“If you can get anything passed St. Johns, FDEP and the EPA, you’re a miracle worker,” said Mr. Anderson. “If they can do that, they’re johnny on the spot, I’m telling you.”
The back and forth between residents and company officials also included discussion about the volume of medical waste to be incinerated and the dangers posed by accidents, either at the facility or while the waste is being transported.
“What is a day’s work,” someone asked.
Between 30 and 60 tons of waste per day could be processed through the facility, responded company representatives, though Mr. Barry said the latter figure would be unlikely “for safety reasons.”
With regard to safety, Mr. Barry stressed that environmental regulators would be closely monitoring the facility to ensure the company is adequately managing any risks to public health and safety.
“We’re even providing an office for the EPA so they can look over our shoulder at all times,” he said.
The company’s vice president, Mr. Henritzy, who has operated a medical waste transport company, Bio-Haz Solutions, in Pennsylvania since 1995, assured the audience that drivers are specially trained and equipped to respond to emergencies.
“And knock on wood, we’ve never had a spill or an accident,” Mr. Henritzy said.
Even after hearing about the safety protocols, liability insurance and environmentally-friendly practices planned for the facility, some at the meeting remained concerned.
“Diesel fuel was totally safe at one point, too,” said Jim Gatlin.
“In the past, there’s been so many places that met all the regulations, and then a disaster happens,” said Carolyn Conway, who owns a tract of land adjacent to the proposed project site.
Mrs. Conway said later that she’s not opposed to the project, and it may even increase the value of her property. “I hope it works out for these gentlemen and our county,” she said. “We just want to know we’re safe.”
After the meeting, Joey Johnson, who lives in the Allen Acres subdivision about a mile from the site, was not supportive of the project.
“I have five kids,” he said, explaining he was fearful the development could pollute the environment. “Cancer rates are already really high out here.”
Mr. Henritzy said he thought the meeting went well.
“It was what we expected,” he said, adding that he hopes to continue the partnership between the company and the community so that the same people concerned about traffic, noise or safety at the meeting will one day become the company’s biggest supporters.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 07 April 2012 11:49|