HOLBROOK — A trash transfer station usually isn’t on the short list of businesses people would want to live near.
But in Holbrook, where the budget is tight and taxes are high, town officials have embraced the idea, won over by free trash collection and the promise of yearly payments once the station opens.
The facility has been discussed in town on and off for the past 10 years, but recent state and local approvals have put the project on the front burner, intensifying the organizing efforts of a group of area residents opposed to it. The residents, including those in neighboring Randolph, say they are concerned about increased traffic from the plant, litter, smells, noise, and rodents, as well as contaminated land on property that is part of the project.
“I don’t think I would move to Holbrook if I had the choice now, because I wouldn’t want to live near a trash station,” said Janelle Farrar, who moved to Holbrook from South Boston seven years ago. “As a mother, I’m just concerned.”
The plan calls for the facility to be built on 14.85 acres at 3 and 6 Phillips Road, off Route 139 on the west side of town, near the Randolph line. Part of the site is owned by the town; the rest is privately owned. The facility would operate six days a week and process as much as 1,000 tons of trash from households, schools, and businesses per day. Hazardous waste and construction and demolition debris would not be accepted at the plant.
Trucks would tip their loads in an enclosed 22,300-square-foot building, and the trash would be put on trains or trucks to be taken to landfills most likely in other states. It would be operated by TLA-Holbrook LLC, based in Canton. A key principal with the company, Vincent Barletta, has worked in the construction industry in Greater Boston for a number of years.
TLA-Holbrook won approvals from the state Department of Environmental Protection in August and the Holbrook Board of Health in November.
The company is working on a more refined site design, a process that could take between two and six months, to present to the local Planning Board, Conservation Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals, said Marc Goldstein, a lawyer at Beveridge & Diamond, which represents TLA-Holbrook. The company also needs authorizations to construct and to operate from the Department of Environmental Protection, he said.
The group opposing the plant has gathered more than 1,100 signatures on an online petition, set up a website, and have a Facebook group with more than 500 members. To spread the word and try to change minds in town, the group has planned protests, reached out to local and state elected officials, showed up at public meetings, and even encouraged people to run for office.
“They’re waking up to what’s happening in Holbrook, and they don’t like it,” said Kathy Connolly, a former selectwoman who opposes the plant.
The town of Randolph plans to appeal the Holbrook health board’s decision.
“Our intention is to do what is necessary to stop this from happening,” said Ken Clifton, president of the Randolph Town Council.
But Holbrook officials appear steadfast in their support of the project, and point out that when it was put on the ballot during a town election in 2008, 75 percent of voters supported it.
“We don’t have any money — we’ll get money,” Selectman Richard McGaughey told town residents in a public meeting Nov. 8. “I assure you that we’ll get paid from day one and your rubbish picked up for nothing.”
A lease and host community agreement the town struck in 2009 with Holbrook Environmental Logistical Partnership LLC, an earlier company that wanted to operate the facility, calls for free trash removal for residents but excludes those in apartments, condominiums, and multifamily buildings larger than four units.
The lease, taken over by TLA-Holbrook, calls for the town to be paid $1 for every ton of trash and recycling processed at the station for the first five years of operation. It caps the maximum amount of trash that can be processed each year at 312,000 tons.
TLA-Holbrook will pay to remediate the contaminated land, now owned by the town, and will offer a trash and recycling drop-off area for Holbrook residents.
McGaughey, an early supporter of the project, told residents he would like to renegotiate the 2009 agreement and get a better deal for the town.
But TLA-Holbrook doesn’t appear interested in doing that. Goldstein said that the company has an enforceable contract and would be willing to speak to the town about it, but that it doesn’t anticipate a renegotiation.
Clifton and some Holbrook residents say a significant concern for them is the plant’s proximity to the contaminated land. The property contains chemicals from Holbrook Chemical Co. used to make plastics and oil. One area of the site requires remediation, Goldstein said.
He said the company will excavate the contaminated soil and place it under the floor slab of the garbage tipping facility, which will cap the contamination, separate it from human contact, and protect it from moving around as the result of rainwater. The remediation will be overseen by the Department of Environmental Protection.
Separate from this contaminated area is the Baird and McGuire Superfund site. About 2.1 acres of the 3 Phillips Road property is part of the Superfund site, according to the August site suitability report from the state.
The Department of Environmental Protection’s report said the plant’s construction and operation “will not affect existing or potential impacts of the Baird & McGuire Superfund Site,” which contains a capped landfill containing treated contaminated sediment from the Cochato River and ash from treated soil from the site, according to the agency.
TLA-Holbrook’s remediation efforts will be focused on the Holbrook Chemical Co. area, not the Superfund site, Goldstein said.
He said he understands why people are concerned about the contamination; he said that the approval process is designed to make sure there are no dangers to health and safety, and that the company’s plan is to do as little work as possible on the Superfund site, because disturbing it would require more administrative work and approvals from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Holbrook resident Sue Krim said she knows her town could use the revenue from the plant, but she remains concerned about potential health risks from the contaminated land and the additional truck traffic in her neighborhood. She is determined to put a halt to the project.
“I think anything can be stopped,” said Krim. “Public opinion can really turn the tide on a lot of these things.”