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WEST BRIDGEWATER

Company plans new trash plant

Hazardous waste facility to move from Stoughton

By Christine Legere
Globe Correspondent / November 6, 2011

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One of the world’s largest waste service companies is looking to move its hazardous waste recycling operation from Stoughton to a facility in West Bridgewater with quick access to major roads.

But while the plan will net West Bridgewater needed tax dollars and free electronics recycling for residents, nearby homeowners fear those perks will be at their expense.

Veolia ES Technical Solutions, the hazardous waste division of Illinois-based Veolia Environmental Services, has just begun the permit application process on a plant at 90 Pleasant St., just off routes 106 and 24. The building, which used to house a printing company, will recycle fluorescent lamps and other lighting waste as well as other manufactured items that contain mercury, such as thermometers and thermostats. It will also handle and prepare for recycling batteries and electronic equipment such as computers.

While the site is within an industrial zone, a dozen or so small homes sit nearby.

“A lot of us have lived here our whole lives,’’ said homeowner Larry Welch. “We know it’s industrially zoned, but this proposal is different. This is hazardous waste, and it’s a 24-hour operation.’’

Veolia official John McShane said he estimates 12 to 15 trucks per day will travel in and out of the property. While the plant will be open 24 hours, receiving will be restricted to daytime hours and most processing is done indoors, he said. The company owns similar plants in Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona, in addition to the Stoughton operation.

In West Bridgewater, several neighbors attended the Zoning Board of Appeals’ opening hearing on Veolia’s special permit request last month and said they plan to return for hearings this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, set for 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

The Board of Health, meanwhile, is considering the matter as well, said health agent Rob Casper. Health officials must decide whether the plant would pose significantly greater danger to public health and safety than other industrial uses. Casper said he has contacted Stoughton counterparts, who report no difficulties with Veolia.

“This company reclaims mercury from light bulbs, CRTs, and stuff,’’ Casper said. “There’s no greater risk from this company than other companies in the industrial zone that use gases and chemicals.’’

Veolia is also overseen by state and federal environmental protection agencies, Casper said.

Stoughton Town Manager Francis Crimmins confirmed Veolia’s solid track record.

“We’re sorry to hear reports they’re leaving,’’ Crimmins said. “They’ve had a great relationship with the town.’’

The company leases the Stoughton plant but plans to buy the 39-acre West Bridgewater property. Just what that will mean in tax revenue has yet to be calculated, McShane said.

Pleasant Street resident Eric Knox said both neighbors and local officials have “a lot of questions,’’ based on the zoning board’s opening hearing.

“We brought up the wetlands, but one of the company lawyers said they aren’t considered ‘protected’ wetlands,’’ said Knox, noting the attorney’s distinction only adds to his concern over possible pollution. “It’s not like they’re handling anything that’s going to go boom, but down the road we don’t want to be saying we ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda.’ ’’

The zoning board doesn’t plan to rush permitting, said its chairman, William Lucini.

“We’re only at the opening stages, and we have three more meetings lined up,’’ he said. “This isn’t going to get settled in a couple or three nights.’’

Mary Price, who lives across from the site, said she plans to raise traffic, speed, and noise issues.

“This is a narrow street,’’ she said. “And if there is a leak, which they say won’t happen, it’s hazardous waste.’’

Price isn’t the only one with traffic worries. Pleasant Street connects Route 106 to the town center as well as a section of Bridgewater, and it has become a well-used cut-through.

“During certain hours, this road is a racetrack,’’ said Sally Harding, who has lived on Pleasant Street for 42 years. The neighborhood used to be “nice and quiet,’’ she said. “We had a cow farm in the backyard, and now we have a Lowe’s and Shaw’s sitting there.’’

Harding said her daughter, who has done mercury testing on her job, plans to attend the zoning board hearings this week.

“She’s not an expert, but she’ll ask questions we wouldn’t think of,’’ Harding said.

Lucini said the zoning board is not surprised to hear from neighbors.

“But this is an industrial zone, and the town recently lost a couple of big companies, and they’re looking to replace that,’’ he said.

He said his panel takes neighborhood concerns seriously.

“We always make sure we cover the neighbors the best we can,’’ he said. “We may not be able to get them everything they want, but we can get them some things.’’

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.