CLAREMONT — A new proposal to bring a construction and demolition waste transfer facility to Claremont met a fierce wave of opposition Monday night, where a hearing by the Claremont Zoning Board drew approximately 70 residents and local stakeholders in protest.
The zoning board is reviewing a new application by American Recycling & Disposal to build an indoor transfer facility that will receive construction and demolition debris from around the region, remove the recyclable materials and load the remaining waste into train cars to ship to Ohio for disposal.
Despite the company’s modifications to their previous proposal — which sought an open facility — the community’s opposition remained unchanged from last year. Residents aired a laundry list of reasons to reject the proposal: environmental and public health concerns, stress on city roads and rail system, impact on property values and the city’s revitalization efforts, and the overall stigma of Claremont becoming a depository for other communities’ garbage.
“There is a barometer in this room [tonight] that measures that we don’t want this,” said Claremont real estate agent Bonnie Miles. “I haven’t heard anyone say they wanted this, not one person yet. If it doesn’t feel right, then let’s just not do it.”
Residents and stakeholders literally lined down the hall outside the meeting room to speak, and not one person in the nearly 90 minutes of public comments spoke in favor of the project. The city, in anticipation of a large turnout, placed a line of yellow tape and instructions for people who wished to speak to stand in the cue. There were still citizens in line as the 10 o’clock hour neared, at which time the zoning board announced it was time to end the forum.
Under American Recycling & Disposal’s plan, trucks and train cars would enter the facility to transfer debris. Once construction debris is unloaded, the facility employees would spray down the waste to reduce airborne contamination and extract materials that can be resold, such as rebar, concrete, loose metals and materials used to make landfill-mix. Liquid run-off would be washing into a central sump.
“By enclosing the loading operations, we are trying to avoid anything getting into the environment during the loading process,” said Biron Bedard, attorney for American Recycling & Disposal. “It is our goal that there won’t be anything escaping the facility that shouldn’t be leaving the facility other than by railcar or going out as recyclable material to a vendor.”
But many concerns raised by the zoning board members, as well as the public, were impacts by the vehicles transporting the materials through the city.
“We’ve had a lot of city-wide damage from the trucks,” Board member Carolyn Towle told Bedard. “I’d like to know how the truck liability is going to be repaid to the city if there’s damage done? You say that you just won’t let them come into the facility, but we would already have the damage.”
Other major public concerns were the types of hazardous materials that trucks may cart into the city.
“Claremont would receive 150,000 tons of construction and demolition a year,” said Claremont City Councilor James Contois. “The lead content moving through the city alone would be measured in tons. Lead poisoning in a child is measured in micrograms.”
Bedard said that lead would not likely be coming to the facility, because construction and demolition professionals should know that disposing lead in landfills is illegal and that American Recycling & Disposal would refuse any vehicle containing lead-based materials.
John Lambert, who owns three businesses that abut the proposed facility location, challenged Bedard’s assurance, saying that dumpsters at construction and demolition sites are loaded with highly hazardous materials.
“It’s impossible for anyone to see from the top of a load what’s buried underneath it,” Lambert said. “They will miss a lot.”
Lambert said that, in talking to other transfer facilities, some trucks that were turned away held the contaminated material for several days.
“That contamination is in our environment, not in the building,” he said.
Bedard estimated that the facility could see an average of 77 vehicle trips per day, including employees. At least 50 of those vehicles would be trucks, which could vary in size and weight.
For Zoning Board Vice-Chair Abigail Kier, a key question was what percentage of material did American Recycling & Disposal expect to recycle from the debris.
When Bedard said that the company did not have that estimate, the board included that item among its list of informational requests for the board’s next hearing on the project.
The question of the anticipated ratio of recyclable material to waste pertains to whether or not this project would qualify for the property’s existing permit as a recycling facility. The property previously housed a cardboard recycling business.
For the proposal to advance for consideration by the Claremont Planning Board, the zoning board must authorize the facility to recycle construction materials in addition to cardboard.
The board will also need to grant an exception to the project design, which had to exceed the zone’s building height limit of 35 feet and infringe on the property boundaries to build a large enough facility to accommodate indoor waste transfer.
For the next scheduled proposal review, the board asked Bedard to provide several reports and documents, including: the appraisal study of surrounding properties; noise and traffic reports; a decommission plan; and resolution to any title ownership issues regarding lands on or adjacent to railroads. This last request was based on an environmental legal report by BCM Environmental & Land Law, whose firm was contracted by John and Janice Lambert and other community members.
According to attorney Amy Manzelli, who authored the report, New Hampshire allows municipal zoning boards to consider a wide variety of factors when review applications, including “health and general welfare,” to “lessen congestion in the streets” and “to assure proper use of natural resources and other public requirements.”
Kier also requested that the city provide the board with legal definitions of such terms as “recycling station”, “transfer station” and “C&D,” which stands for construction and demolition. These definitions will likely help the zoning board decide whether this proposed project would constitute a “noncomforming use” for the property than was previously authorized.
Additionally, by a unanimous vote, the zoning board approved a regional impact study, to determine this project’s potential impacts on Claremont’s neighboring communities.