HOWELL – Residents are vehemently opposed to the potential construction of a waste transfer station at 34 Randolph Road in Howell Township. Piling into the meeting room of the Howell Township Municipal Building on Jan. 25, residents and officials alike voiced concerns and posed numerous questions as to the fate of Howell Township, should this facility be built.
“The entire governing body vigorously opposes the waste transfer station in Howell Township,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro.
The meeting, led by the Monmouth County Solid Waste Advisory Council (SWAC), ran for nearly three hours as residents asked officials to reject this proposal. The meeting was augmented by detailed presentations by Insite Engineering, the site engineer for the applicant Resource Engineering, LLC, and McDonough & Rea Associates, traffic engineers for this proposal.
This meeting was held to become a source of public record for the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and was mediated by Christopher Beekman.
“The purpose of this memorandum is to advise the public of general information related to application that seek admittance to the County’s Solid Waste Management Plan and also specific information related to the pending application of Resource Engineering, LLC,” said Beekman as he kicked off the meeting, reading from a memorandum.
The timeline of the proposal began when Resource Engineering, LLC first applied for a waste transfer station in 2015. After review by the Township council and SWAC, it was decided that certain conditions need to be met by the applicant for the proposal to be approved. They then made the necessary updates to the plan and in March of 2017, conditions for the proposal were met by the applicant, and Howell Township issued a letter of consent for the proposal. In May of 2017, SWAC held a meeting where the vote in favor of the transfer station was unanimous and thus recommended to the Freeholders for approval. Prior to the Freeholders meeting on July 27, 2017, SWAC received numerous letters from Howell officials expressing conflicting views to Howell officials’ original stance, causing a halt in the approval process.
The proposal advocates for the construction of a recycling transfer station that will be the turnover site for sorting out and recycling solid waste in the form of construction and demolition debris, according to Patrick Ward of InSite Engineering. The site is currently home to the Wood Recycling Facility, which will be expanded upon for this purpose.
“Transfer stations collect debris from smaller point sources (contractors and homeowners) and transport it in bulk to final disposal sites,” it stated in Ward’s presentation. “This recycling transfer station is not a dump,” or a landfill, he emphasized.
The site will be home to a main transfer station, an administration building and a scale house. The layout of the site will be structured so that tipping procedures will be out of view of residents, Ward noted.
In addition to the construction, there will also be upgrades made to the intersection of Randolph Road and County Route 547 as part of the proposal. Randolph Road will be expanded and widened; adding turn lanes and a traffic signal where the two roads meet in order to lessen the traffic congestion that plagues that area, according to John Rae, Traffic Engineer with McDonough & Rae.
“You’re going to have a safer and more effective intersection, very simple,” said Rae.
The application process is now somewhat halted to inform the public better about the project due to increasing opposition. However, the proposal is not being re-reviewed by SWAC, according to Beekman. He noted that it is not SWAC that approves the proposal but merely reviews its contents and recommends whether to send it on to the Freeholders for final approval. If approved there, the proposal then has to go through two separate approval processes by the NJ Department of Environment Protection.
Though the SWAC meeting intended to provide clarity, it just seemed to upset more members of the Howell community. Public concerns revolved heavily around the effects on the transfer station on the surrounding neighborhoods.
One resident was concerned about the runoff of toxic chemicals from the debris and materials being handled in the facility.
“Right now the site itself, generally across the 10 acres, is flat,” said Ward in response. “There is no discharge point today.”
Leon Pflaster, owner of several properties on Randolph Road, was worried about how many large trucks will be traveling in and out of the facility every day on residential roads, causing more traffic. Rae said that there will be 187-188 smaller trucks and 62 larger trucks coming in and out of the site per day for a period of about 10 hours.
Many worries revolved around the traffic changes to be made. Residents asked: Will the trucks just increase congestion? Will the traffic construction be completed before the site is to be opened? To these questions, Rae did not have an answer.
The traffic engineers conducted a one-day study of the intersection on a weekday in April of 2016, according to Rae. This study was meant to instruct the changes proposed for the roadways, to prove that these updates would be beneficial based on the conditions of that intersection on a given day.
Many residents, however, were skeptical of this and did not believe one day was sufficient time to make an educated decision.
“We are here 365 days,” emphasized one resident.
Another major issue brought up was the possibility of water contamination. Residents, and even Mayor of Howell Theresa Berger, voiced concerns over water wells being contaminated by materials and chemicals coming from the station. Mayor Berger was not able to attend the meeting and in her place was her son, Alec Berger, who read from a note Berger’s comments.
“I, as well as the residents of Howell, fear the negative environmental impact it will have on our town,” he read.
In attendance, alongside the residents, was Deputy Mayor Nicastro and Councilman Robert Walsh, both stepping up to the microphone as members of the community. Nicastro noted that these residents do not have a case of “not in my backyard syndrome,” but rather they understand that there is no public need for this facility.
Councilman Walsh gave an emotional speech, explaining that the proposal “just doesn’t seem right.”
“There’s not one person in Howell Township that thinks this is good,” said Walsh. He pleaded with SWAC to reopen the proposal approving process.
There has even been opposition from state legislators to this proposal. In a letter to the Monmouth County Solid Waste Advisory Council dated Jan. 23, Senator Robert Singer and Assemblymen Sean Kean and Edward Thomson expressed concerns.
“Residents of this community are understandably worried that this proposal will exacerbate traffic congestion, pose a threat to the environment and will have a negative effect on their quality of life,” they wrote. “Therefore, we urge you to stand with the residents of Howell and the Howell governing body and reject the application to operate this massive waste transfer station in this community.”
Resident Michael Bateman is a member of a community organization called Stop the Dump in Howell that “wants to raise awareness for people in the area…and show civil solidarity against the proposed waste transfer station coming to Randolph Road.”
Bateman noted that community opposition to this proposal has existed since at least July 2017. In January of 2018, Stop the Dump formed a Facebook page which has 356 followers as of Jan. 30. Bateman said that resident have shown the most concern about noise, air pollution, traffic, and wear and tear on the roads, odor, potential environmental contaminants, dust, and potential decreased property value for nearby homes.
Although these are considerable factors, Ward noted during his presentation that there would also be some positive impacts as a result of the transfer station. It will reduce the cost of transporting waste, reduce fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance costs, cause less materials to end up in landfills, and would produce over 40 potential jobs.
All of the information brought forth by this meeting will be reviewed by the Freeholders before their next meeting on Feb. 22, 2018. If you want to voice concerns to the Freeholders, you are able to send a letter detailing your position until Feb. 21, 2018.