It smells. It doesn’t smell.
It will add pollution. It won’t add pollution.
Rumbling trucks will awaken slumbering residential streets. Nope, the rigs stay mainly on the highways.
The city gets new jobs and taxes. Or ... a beleaguered, dense, and poor neighborhood gets dumped on once again.
Those visions competed Tuesday night of a ending proposal by Murphy Road Recycling, LLC to process garbage at an expanded transfer station in the port district.
The visions emerged at the library of the Ross/Woodward Schoolnight during a passionate and hour-long interchange between the Quinnipiac East and East Shore management teams and officials of Murphy Road, a statewide company whose transfer station business has been processing construction debris and “non-putrescible” municipal solid waste (MSW) such as cardboard and paper products for the last seven years.
Murphy Road now seeks government permission to double the size of its facility, add new, more efficient equipment to recycle, and offer itself as a transfer point for “putrescible” MSW, more popularly known as “garbage,” from towns potentially up to a 30-mile radius from New Haven.
To do that it needs a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). To get that permit, it first must participate, by law, in a mandated DEEP-choreographed “EJ,” or environmental justice process/
Under state law, a business like Murphy Road Recycling must engage in “meaningful public participation” letting residents in the affected low-income — and, in the case of New Haven, high asthma — neighborhoods know the benefits and safeguards in any proposed new building or expansion of scope of work.
Tuesday’s meeting, which drew 30 people, was the fourth “E.J.” session for the Murphy Road team consisting of Director of Operations Jonathan Murray, lead engineer Mark Zessin, and lawyer Ed Spinella. They have given tours of the site and appeared at community meetings at the Fair Haven library , before the city’s Environmental Advisory Council.
The opposition at the latter venue was outspoken. Tuesday night it was heated, with Fair Haven area activist Ian Christmann testifying that the current site, even without adding garbage to its processing menu, emits a “noxious and terrible” odor as far away as the Ferry Street Bridge.
Murray said this is the very first he’d heard of such a problem. He promised to look into it right away.
Fair Haven activist Chris Ozyck said he was “appalled” that there has not been a more thorough environmental justice analysis of the effects of expanding a dirty business into the heart of a dense and poor community — portions of Fair Haven and the Annex —already beleaguered by asthma and other problems. He termed the presenters’ PowerPoint a “kabuki” dance that hid the fundamental issues.
Attroney Spinella disputed that characterization, saying they have been open about the issues. They argued that the proposed change would mean fewer trucks on the road, due to the consolidation of loads at the proposed station, mean less pollution.
Ozyck wasn’t buying: “What about asthma, traffic, rats? Where is your analysis in writing?”
Environmental Justice Coalition member Lynn Bonnet pressed Jonathan Murray with a recurring charge: That New Haven manages its own garbage, and other towns shouldn’t begin to dump on us through the addition of a putresible MSW capacity at Murphy Road.
Murray and Ed Spinella countered by saying the expansion should not be seen through a NIMBY lens, but rather through a statewide lens.
“Who knows where your garbage goes” in New Haven, he asked? The answer was Hartford, where it ends up for burning after being processed and organized on the grounds of our transfer station on Middletown Avenue.
Spinella pressed the case: “The statehas a solid waste management plan. DEEP emphasizes that transfer stations are crucial.”
There were repeated questions and challenges from Ozyck, Christmann, and others about both odor and the potential run off of the garaegy-waters after treatment into the Quinnipiac River. Spinella and the project engineer Zessin said the floors of the planned putresible MSW facility are nonpermeable. They said the site is set up with a storm water management system that directs the water to drains at the front of the property not near the river.
Ozyck challenged the Murphy Road team about the dumpsters all lined up at the western edge of the property near the Q River. Murray responded that the dumpsters are all empty.
Annex property owner Joyce Sanseverino acnowledged that Murray had made a professional presentation. “You’ve been persuasive,” she said, “but as a property owner near, already, a power pla nand a waste water plant, persuade me how I, as a citizen of New Haven benefit.”
Murray said that his company pays taxes on the property as well as on 80 trucks. The new addition would result in more taxes to be paid plus 15 new jobs.
And so it went. Christmann and Ozyck said the company’s fence, where it abuts Fairmont Avenue, has concertina wire atop it, which is not allowed in a residential district. Murray said it was likely put up by the property’s previous owner, U.S. Steel. He agreed to take it down as part of the arrangement with the city.
“Please acknowledge,” Sanseverino pressed, “why people in this room are reluctant to process Madison’s garbage so they can kayak on the Hamonnassett River.”
Edith Pestana, the administrator of the state’s Environmental Justice Program, said, “They [the Murphy Road officials] are eager to please New Haven. They need to go before planning and zoning. They don’t want to be disliked.”
No one wants such a facility near them. observed Edith Pestana, the administrator of the state’s Environmental Justice Program. Yet, “if they cross their i’s and dot their t’s, they’ll get a permit, legally. “That permit ultimately comes from DEEP, and is a lengthy process, preceded by, appearances and approvals in front of the City Plan Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.
This very same company, Murphy Road, Pestana reported, failed to convince zoning officials and residents in Waterbury that an expansion there would not add to odor problems. The city hired a consultant, as a result of the citizen feedback, who ultimately reported that Murphy Road’s plans would add no additional risk for residents.
Pestana said she gave her card to Christmann so they could follow through on his report of odors coming from the site. “I do surprise drive-throughs of the site,” she said. “They’ve spent a lot of money on controls to make what they do palatable. I’m sorry. I know people are disappointed, but if they meet environmental standards. they’ll get their permit.”
A different outcome, a stopping of the expansion, would require some dark secret being uncovered, or evidence of a significant history of poor compliance, she added.
Ozyck remained undeterred. “The state reps are opposed. We need to have all the political people on record as to why we should have more dumping in one of the densest and poorest neighborhoods,” he said.
Spinella said Murphy Road will formally apply for a state permit within a month or two. In the coming weeks the company has a second scheduled meeting with City Plan staff to get the application in order before the item goes on the agenda. He expects that to take place in the beginning months of the new year.
Pestana had the last word, at least with this reporter.
“We make too much waste,” she said, noting that while New Haven’s garbage does indeed go to Hartford, the incinerator there is antiquated and having problems. She reported that our leftovers well may be being shipped to Pennsylvania. “We share our garbage.”