Bills Hinder Proposed Pawtucket Transfer Station

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — House and Senate committees are expected to advance bills that will impede the approval of transfer stations, such as the one proposed for the Fairlawn neighborhood in Pawtucket.

The project by Link Environmental would bring about 300 trucks and 2,000 tons of trash and construction debris daily to an industrial site off of I-95. The facility at 55 Concord St. would collect commercial and residential waste and then deliver some of it to the Central Landfill in Johnston. The site has rail access, and about 80 percent of the waste would be shipped by train to out-of-state landfills. Rail connection access is likely a long-term asset for the facility, as many urban hubs in the Northeast are turning to shipping waste by train to landfills in the Midwest as local landfills reach capacity.

U.S. landfill capacity will dwindle by 2035, with the Northeast losing about 30 percent of its landfill space in the next five years, according to the Waste Business Journal.

A portion of the Link Environmental project is across the street from a Chelo’s Hometown Bar & Grille, at the intersection of Silver Spring Street and Smithfield Avenue.

“It will put us out of business,“ said Glenn Chelo, co-owner of the Rhode Island-based chain of eateries, during a May 8 hearing for the Senate bill (S2026).

Chelo predicted that seagulls, foul odors and 55,000 rats would overrun the neighborhood. The stench, he said, would flow into his restaurant through its exhaust system.

“It’s beyond devastating,” he said.

The project has been on hold for about seven months while Link Environmental renews its agreement with the city of Pawtucket at its existing transfer station on Grotto Avenue, about a half-mile from the proposed Concord Street site. Permits are also required from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM). If and when the existing site is renewed, the Concord Street project would require a full review by the city's Planning Commission. A 34,000-square-foot waste transfer building would also need a variance for exceeding height restrictions.

Link Environmental says it will eventually close the Grotto Street facility. The new 9-acre operation on Concord Street would save Pawtucket $500,000 annually by allowing free trash and recycling drop-off for the city and residents. The city would also receive a $1 million annual host fee.

At a Pawtucket Planning Commission meeting last October, residents and business owners in the Fairlawn neighborhood came out against the project because of objections about the added truck traffic and pollution.

The House and Senate bills hinder projects like this by adding provisions to state refuse disposal laws that would require the state Planning Council and DEM director to take into account “the detrimental impact” a waste facility has on its surrounding communities.

The House Corporations Committee is expected to vote May 15 on its bill (H7787). The Senate Judiciary Committee also is scheduled to vote May 15.

Once voted out of committee, one of the bills must be approved by the House and Senate. It then goes to the governor’s desk for a signature.