by KAITLYN NAPLES
Residents began finding out back in April about Phoenix Soil, a soil-recycling business, moving to Plainville after the company was given the blessing of The Plainville Zoning Commission.
Since then, more and more residents have been speaking out against the company’s relocation to Plainville from Waterbury. Now, the public will have two opportunities to be able to ask questions about Phoenix and hear information from the business owner himself at upcoming public hearings.
There will be a public information session on Thursday, July 26 at 6 p.m. at the Plainville Library for the public to learn more about Phoenix Soil.
At last week’s council meeting, most of the speakers during the open forum portion of the meeting brought up Phoenix coming to Plainville.
“This was pushed through really fast,” Plainville resident John Kisluk said at last week’s Town Council meeting. “The public was never notified.”
The Town Council does not approve or deny any businesses that wish to open in Plainville. Business owners go through the proper departments in the town and land use commissions, like zoning, to get permits approved for opening. However, several residents in town are concerned with the quality of the air being affected by the 115-foot smoke stack that will come with Phoenix Soil when it moves to Plainville.
Maryann DiBenigno, a resident and owner of the Vital Life Center on West Main Street, said that 115-foot smoke stack will be in view from her windows in her business. She said her business revolves around healthy living and she fears the smoke stack being both visible to her business, and also its purpose will negatively impact the health of the Plainville community, and the beauty of the town.
Phoenix Soil accepts oil-soaked soil from across the area and bakes it at high temperatures until it is free of most pollutants. It then sells the recycled soil as fill.
Residents have been asking why the company is being forced to leave Waterbury. The company joined an agreement in 1993 with Waterbury to treat contaminated soil for three years. The closure deadline expired, but the city didn’t force Phoenix Soil to close at that time. Later, when the city tried to enforce the terms of the old deal, the judge hearing the city’s legal challenge decided Waterbury had waited too long and extended the shutdown date until March 2012. Neighbors in the city have wanted the plant gone for years, and have said the smoke stack was emitting smoke that has contributed to the poor air quality in Waterbury. However, the state has said Phoenix Soil has a good environmental record.
Phoenix Soil owner David Green had wanted to take several steps to improve the company in Waterbury and lessen its impact on the environment, but those actions had to be delayed due to lapsed permits and court battle. The city has been fighting to close the factory for years, spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees.
According to a report from the Waterbury Republican-American, at a zoning meeting in Plainville a few months ago, Green said he would add a wet scrubber and a tire wash in Plainville that he couldn’t in Waterbury. This will reduce stack emissions and stop tainted soil from being carried out by trucks.
Robert Mercer said he was concerned with the combusting of toxic soil that will be transported through the streets of Plainville. He added he was concerned the company could have an impact on the Plainville water supply.
“If this ever does get into Plainville, it would change the character of this town,” Mercer said.
The company is looking to move to North Washington Street where Atlantic Pipe Co. once was located.
The company moving to Plainville will bring jobs, and business to the local economy. The Waterbury Republican American reported that Green’s wife, Jean, said Phoenix Soil generated about $1 million a year in business for local vendors and that cash now will be going to Plainville.
Phoenix has applied for its air compliance permit and waste permit from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is expected to release a notice of determination soon. That notice will allow for the possibility of a public hearing if it hears from 25 or more people on the topic. The notice states how the department feels the permit should be granted and under what conditions, Plainville Town Manager Robert Lee said.
Green said last week he is working with the Town Council to set up a public hearing where he would make a presentation and provide information about what the company does and how, and then would answer questions from both the council, and also members of the public. The Town Council would facilitate this public hearing.
“The more knowledge they know, the safer they will feel,” Green said, adding that he has given out his phone number, and has invited anyone interested to visit the company in Waterbury to see how things work. He added he has test results from the Environmental Protection Agency and state DEEP that members of the public can look at as well.
“This is very important to me,” he said, adding that members of the public may be getting the wrong information through word of mouth. “I want to get people the truth of what we are.”
Additionally, Green said he is going to request a public hearing from the DEEP once the notice of determination is released. The DEEP will facilitate this public hearing and will hear comments from the public as well as Phoenix. There will be a public information session with the Town Council on Thursday, July 26, at 6 p.m. in the Plainville Library Auditorium.