Refuse district eyes expansion

Abutters concerned about major development that would double current footprint.

Martha's Vineyard Refuse & Resource Recovery District (MVRRRD) manager Don Hatch and Engineer Doug Rice present their phasing plan for the MVRRRD.

The Martha’s Vineyard Refuse & Resource Recovery District (MVRRRD) is proposing to double its footprint and abutters are pushing back.

Don Hatch, MVRRRD manager, and Doug Rice, an engineer with Wright Pierce, presented the plan to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) Thursday night, which proposes to reconfigure the facility to separate commercial and residential operations, allow for more vehicle staging for people waiting to drop off waste, and to prepare for a future composting operation. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $2.5 million. “We just want to make it safer. Make it a more compliant Massachusetts DEP…facility,” Hatch said. 

MVRRRD handles waste from Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah. It currently handles 27 tons of waste a day and is licensed to deal with 125 tons a day, but Hatch said the facility could be more efficient with more space.

The facility’s peak usage is in July and August. Twenty vehicles may be delayed up to 40 minutes, according to the MVC staff report. Hatch told commissioners this summer car traffic increased by 70 to 100 cars per day, more than any other year.

Rice also detailed a berm to be created in the southeast corner of the facility. The proposed berm would be 40 to 50 feet wide and was designed as a buffer to the neighboring properties

The future composting area delighted commissioners, but the proposed expansion lacked details on the proposed compost site.

MVRRRD is working with Island Grown Initiative (IGI) and their pilot food waste program. The program has food waste stations at Island transfer stations where people can drop off their food waste. IGI picks it up and brings it back to their farm hub to be turned into compost.

Ben Robinson said the proposed compost area was unclear in an otherwise well-engineered plan. “It seems like a black hole right now,” Robinson said. 

Several abutters to the south of MVRRRD complained about the proposed expansion. Kevin Selby who lives on Watcha Path was concerned about carbon dioxide from idling cars, runoff contaminating his water, and the proposed berm. Selby said when he purchased his property the town building commissioner, his real estate agent, and the former owner all told him the MVRRRD would never expand. “I don’t want to get sick. Then I could have one hell of a lawsuit, I guess. I got one hell of a good lawyer,” Selby said.

Elizabeth Harrington was also vocal in her opposition to the project, calling the berm “ridiculous.” “It’s not safe for the community that lives around it,” Harrington said.

Nils Leaf, another abutter, said it seemed excessive to double the size of the facility to meet demands for two months out of the year. He also questioned why the berm was only on one corner of the property.

The lone voice of support from the public came from Eunice Youmans, an Edgartown resident and a representative Martha’s Vineyard food waste initiative, a collaborative with IGI, who said she looks forward to an expansion and better traffic flow. “We are fully supportive of having a composting operation on-Island,” Youmans said. “We spend a tremendous amount of money and other resources shipping this product that could be turned into a really valuable commodity on this Island which is compost.”

In a letter to the commission, Island Grown Initiative executive director Rebecca Haag estimated the Island currently exports 6,500 tons of food waste and it costs Islanders $622,000 a year to transport and dispose of the waste off-Island.

Commissioners kept the public hearing to Sept. 19 and asked Hatch and Rice to submit additional information on the project and on the proposed composting area.