Jackson County proposed home for TMES waste
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Jackson County proposed home for TMES waste

Jul 23, 2023

RAVENSWOOD, W.Va. (WV News) — Thunder Mountain Environmental Services, LLC. (TMES) is a waste management and remediation service that is proposing to construct a waste-to-energy facility to be located at 5334 Point Pleasant Road in Ravenswood; however, it is outside of the city limits.

TMES takes medical waste and treats it through gasification, a process where the materials are transformed by thermal and chemical reactions into their basic components.

“What this means for medical waste is that it is rendered completely inert by the process and destroys any infectious materials, resulting only in a product known as syngas,” TMES representative Bryan Fennell said. “The syngas is then transported into a thermal oxidizer to extract the energy contained in it. We then use that energy to make steam in a boiler which can be used for several useful products, such as electricity.”

Fennell said that it is important to note that the process is not incineration.

“The actual waste material never encounters a flame nor is it ever combusted,” he said. “There will be no odors or smoke of any kind from our facility. The process inside the gasifier takes place in a very low oxygen environment that does not allow for the combustion of the waste material. In addition, once the gasification unit has been brought up to temperature by using natural gas, the gas supply is shut off and there is no additional fuel required.”

Fennell said the waste provides all the energy needed to safely and effectively destroy any contamination contained in the medical waste stream.

“The gasification process is also materially cleaner with respect to air emissions than incineration,” he said.

On June 3, 2022, TMES applied for a permit to construct this new regulated medical waste (RMW) facility in Ravenswood.

According to the permit document, as of August 25, 2022, Edward Andrews of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) requested TMES submit an air dispersion modeling protocol for evaluation of the impacts from the affected facility to further support the siting analysis required pursuant to 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Subpart 60.54c(a). See the permit application at the below web address.

Revised_Final_Modeling Protocol_TMES_11102022_Combined.pdf (wv.gov)

“We really like the Ravenswood location from a transportation perspective as it allows our customers easy access to the facility as the result of our proximity to several major highways,” Fennell said. “We also felt very good about the positive business environment we encountered in Jackson County. Finally, the building we are leasing is ideal for our application due to its open floor plan and the fact that it is set back from the road.”

A public meeting was hosted by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on July 20, 2023, regarding the air quality permit that was requested by TMES. Permit Engineer of the Air Quality division of the state DEP, Edward Andrews, spoke about the permit and answered questions from the public.

Rick Buckley, who heads the Jackson County Solid Waste Authority, attended the meeting via Zoom and shared his concerns.

“I am encouraged regarding the interest of a business wanting to locate in Jackson County and the jobs it may provide to the community and the other economic benefits it may afford the county,” Buckley commented. “With that said, I am concerned regarding the potential for water and air pollution from this facility and the potential for adverse impacts to the health of the public and the environment.”

Another issue Buckley would like addressed is the materials being gasified.

“I am very concerned with the potential for medical waste materials being delivered and incinerated at the plant that do not meet the limitation requirements of the permit due to those evaluations occurring at the facilities generating the medical waste,” he said. “This becomes a greater concern because of the less than robust WVDEP inspection process for these types of facilities.”

Many residents in the area of the proposed facility are upset and do not want the facility to open in Jackson County for a variety of reasons.

Two concerned citizens, Bob Ashley and Michelle Roach, went out into their neighborhood to make the proposed facility known.

“How this got started was, I was watching the news and they were interviewing my neighbor and I said, ‘That’s my house,’” Ashley said. “After that, I called the neighbor and she told me they wanted to put the facility right across from my house. That’s when we knew we had to do something.”

Ashley and Roach organized a special meeting hosted at the Riverfront Park to hear the concerns of the local residents.

Heather Sprouse, the Ohio River Coordinator of West Virginia Rivers, was the guest speaker for the event. Andrew Early with Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services was also present to assist with legal questions and concerns regarding the facility.

“My job is to talk with communities, hear concerns, talk about what permit processes look like and to talk about what decision making points we have,” Sprouse said. “We are going to talk about how neighbors can put pressure on our decision-makers to make sure the decisions being made reflect what residents want to see happening in their communities.”

Residents were then allowed to introduce themselves and share their concerns about the project.

“I’m here for one thing and that is to protect the environment we live in,” Larry Parish said. “I feel that air quality is the big issue that we are facing here. I think we need everybody’s idea on what the problem is going to be if this does go in.”

Other residents were concerned about their children and grandchildren due to the long-term effects.

“It might not affect my health, I am 80 years old,” Ashley said. “But what effect will it have on our grandchildren?”

Roach also shared Ashley’s concern.

“I have lived here for 20 years,” Roach said. “I want my son and his friends to live toxic-free. That’s why we want to get this thing out of here.”

The items to be gasified, such as needles, blood and pharmaceuticals, concerned many members of the community.

Marsha Goodrich has lived in the Ravenswood area for many years. She said she was concerned about the toxins released into the air for possible effects on the children and grandchildren but also for the loss of value on their homes.

Junior Ables has a 16-acre farm on Pleasant View Ridge and is concerned about his livestock.

“I have a few cows running around out there that may be steak for some of you all one of these days, and they drink spring water,” Ables said. “I am concerned that if any of this pollution hits the water it can go through the animals and back out.”

TMES understands there are many concerns from the public. Fennell said the company looks forward to addressing those issues in future public meetings.

“We will adhere to the strictest safety standards to assure a safe and secure workplace and will operate the facility in accordance with all laws, rules, and regulations,” Fennell said. “We have a ‘safety first’ culture, and that extends beyond the workplace into the local community.”

For questions on upcoming public meetings involving the WVDEP, contact Edward Andrews at 304-926-0499 ext. 41244 or contact Heather Spouse at 304-539-3900.

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