Enviros wary of end-run on medical waste bill

Legislation that would provide for the disposal of out-of-state medical waste at the Central Landfill in Johnston has died at the State House in recent years. The environmental community is today watching with concern, however, because the latest bill, H6375, introduced by Representative Tim Williamson, is slated for a 3:30 hearing by the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. That the bill is posted is seen as a sign that something will happen.

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, who fought similar legislation as a state senator, tells N4N that he remains staunchly opposed.

In a June 5 letter to Representative Peter Ginaitt, chairman of the related House committee, Michael O'Connell, executive director of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, Michael Sullivan, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, and Kevin Flynn, associate director of the RI Statewide Planning Program, also expressed their opposition, because the bill "undermines the Rhode Island Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan."

The trio noted that the bill "would allow all residues of regulated medical waste that have been properly treated and destroyed at a RI-based facility to be disposed of at the Central Landfill, regardless of the origin of the waste. Most of the medical waste treated at Stericycle [in Woonsocket], the one and only medical waste treatment facility in RI, comes from out-of-state. As such, the bill would allow for the disposal of a considerable amount of out-of-state waste at the Central Landfill, overriding the long-standing statutory ban on such practice."

Local environmental advocates, who have raised concern about a waste-to-energy plant being conceived for possible placement near the landfill, say that one of the main backers of that project, Richard W. Nicholson of Jefferson Renewable Energy, has in the past backed medical waste legislation. Nicholson, who missed a pre-scheduled telephone interview with the Phoenix earlier this week, could not be reached for comment.

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