Categories: Hampton Roads Community News

Public Hearing On Recycling Plant Held At Slover Library

  Area residents voiced overwhelming opposition to a proposed recycling and trash collecting facility in a Norfolk neighborhood during a town hall meeting on May 22 on the sixth floor of the  Slover Library. Those attending included residents living near the site, those who did not, housing activists, and city leaders.

  The public hearing which lasted one hour and 13 minutes  was hosted by  Select Recycling Waste Services, Inc. (SRWS), and was attended by more than 100 persons. Each of those speaking  denounced  SRWS’s plan to open the facility in the Bruce Park/Barraud Park section of Norfolk. 

The company is proposing to collect refuse from construction sites around the region,  truck it to  the old Globe Iron complex site at 1525 St. Julian’s Avenue  and extract recyclable material to be sold.

The meeting was one  of two public hearings SRWS was required to schedule to comply with Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)   requirements to secure a permit to proceed.

According to city officials only 10 percent of the  material that will be at the site will be recyclable. Other materials will be stored  and then hauled away on trucks to a land fill.

        The facility is already zoned to allow the company to recycle. But it is not zoned to store the garbage which the city and residents living near it  fear may include hazardous waste such as asbestos or worse.

          The city has denied SRWS’s permit request to store garbage, and the recycling company is seeking to secure an “exception” or “variance”  from DEQ to override the city’s zoning code.

        The company has said the site was used already for heavy industry, and it would construct safeguards to assure the site from being hazardous to the nearby residents.

        SRWS is owned by State Senator  Bill DeSteph (8th District)  and will be run by former Portsmouth City Council member Danny Meeks.

  The city has asked the  DEQ to deny the variance. And according to Norfolk City Council which has expressed its opposition, the city has  launched legal efforts to appeal any favorable decision  by that agency.

  June 5 is the final day  that residents can voice opposition or support to the DEQ for the venture in writing via traditional mail or E-Mail.

  The time and date set by SRWS for the May 22 public hearing coincided with a regularly scheduled city council meeting. A week  before the public hearing was held, city council persons Mamie Johnson (Ward 3) and Angelia Williams Graves (Superward 7), were alerted the hearing had been set for May 22 at 7 p.m.

  It was set during the same time the council was taking a crucial final vote on the city budget.  The council starts public business at 6 p.m.

  But the two  convinced Mayor Kenneth Alexander and other council members to move the vote on the budget to earlier in the panel’s agenda to ensure city leaders would be in attendance.

  Also, with the help of their allies, Johnson and Graves  launched  a conventional and social media alert urging people to attend the May 22 meeting. A story appeared in the  May 7 edition of the GUIDE.

  The vote was taken by council and the Mayor, Johnson, Williams-Graves and the City Attorney arrived shortly after the public hearing began.

  Several of the speakers pointedly noted during their address to the company they had been alerted via the media campaign.

  Before the meeting started,  another questionable mishap occurred.

 When the GUIDE arrived, a number of  people seeking to attend the meeting stood outside of Room 115,  a small room which may seat 20 people.

        Two company representatives and a stenographer seemed taken aback by individuals, such as the School Board Chair Rodney Jordan and Barraud Park resident Marcus Powell,  who pointedly ask them why the meeting was being held in such a small space.

  The reps ignored  them and continued to    request they and other attendees sign a sheet to be able to speak.

  But Charles Johnson, a member of the library board, had convinced an employee of the Slover to open up the large sixth floor event room.

  He then entered the small room and alerted those who had arrived to move to the event room.

  Several of the attendees noted that the  company either did not anticipate the larger crowd or wanted to limit the number of people who would participate by selecting the smaller venue.

  On time, at 7 p.m., the meeting was called to order by a company representative Sharon Cordell Ivory.

  She said the hearing was required by a state code and due to the technical nature of the issue and  number  of  individuals who planned to speak that  all comments would be recorded.  SRWS would respond them in writing and the comments would be available for public scrutiny at the library.

  During the public hearing, residents expressed concerns about availability of the comments, traffic,  property values, health issues and the inability of the company to alert residents or council representatives of the plan.

  Many of the speakers noted that  it  was a case of environmental racism, since most of the nearby residents are  African American.

  Several speakers pointed out that there were no city or state officials in the room during the early part of the event.

  Both council members spoke  near the end of the event,  but Graves addressed the queries about her initial absence and that of her colleagues.

  “I am sure there were a lot of  questions before we got here,”  Graves said, as she opened her remarks. “We had to vote on the  budget. It’s no coincidence that this meeting was scheduled on city council night between 7 and 8 p.m.  But we will give them  (SRWS) the benefit of the doubt.

  “We have  raised our  objections formally,   through our city attorney’s office publicly and those objects have not changed,” she said and acknowledged the Mayor and Johnson were indeed present.

  Graves said the council “is unified” on its opposition  to the plan and  had engaged Delegates Joe Lindsey  and  Jerrauld Jones, whose districts “sit right in the middle ” of the targeted community to lend support for opposing it.

  “This is not over,”  said Graves. “Bruce and Barraud  Parks….have come too far for someone to and turn our neighborhoods into a trash dump.”

  Graves referred to Dr. Linda Horsey, a Clinical Psychologist who lives in Huntersville, who said the  expected waste,  including  the  “sludge” and other solid wastes, according to EPA definitions,  would be far more toxic than the company described in its application.

  Graves said she had told Meeks at the first meeting directly that “this was not going to happen” without a fight.

  “We are standing for you and with you and doing everything  in our power, including legal action to prevent the trash dump from coming into Barraud Park.”

  Councilwoman Johnson said  before SRWS bought the old Globe Iron building and other nearby properties, Norfolk had designs on buying it as part of the city’s Master Plan. But the city was out maneuvered by the current owners.

  She urged people attending the May 22 meeting to continue to be vigilant in  the coming weeks.  Like Graves, she said the city was in litigation with the  company and needed support from people in the impacted communities.

  Graves told the audience to send  their comments to SRWS

Admin@srwscorp.com She said that just in case your comments  “do not

make it” CC and send an  email to Donald.Brunson@DEQ.va.gov.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

 

Web Staff

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