Another waste plant for Hunts Point?

Kimberly Devi Milner

Daniels Sharpsmart Facility treats medical waste on Viele Avenue in Hunts Point.

Medical waste facility seeks to expand

The second largest medical waste disposal company in the United States plans to double the capacity of its Hunts Point facility, trucking in more red bags from hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices as far away as Rhode Island.

As much as 80 tons of human tissue, syringes and soiled linens a day would be sterilized at the Daniels Sharpsmart facility on Viele Avenue and then trucked out of state for burial or incineration.

The plan drew criticism from environmentalists and residents who say Hunts Point is already overburdened with waste disposal facilities and the trucks that serve them.

But it won preliminary support from three committees of Community Board 2, in exchange for a promise from the company to hire locally and to maintain its fleet of trucks to minimize emissions.

“We’re talking about disinfected waste,” said District Manager Raphael Salamanca. “I don’t see this as something being detrimental like NYOFCo was, or the sewage treatment system.” He added that many board members believe Daniels is reputable and environmentally friendly and would bring jobs to the neighborhood.

Daniels will sterilize lab cultures, syringes, human tissue and other potentially infectious materials with steam in one of its two autoclaves. The sterilized material “gets directed to landfills as non-hazardous waste that’s cleaner than the waste you actually put into your driveway for municipal collection every week,” Daniels Vice President Daniel Kennedy told members of the board on Nov. 21.

Opponents of the plan and its supporters agree that the expansion will increase truck traffic to and from the Daniels warehouse at 1281 Viele Avenue, a facility Daniels acquired in June 2011 when the government forced the nation’s largest medical waste disposal company, Stericycle to sell it. The Department of Justice moved to keep Stericycle from operating as a monopoly because it operates the borough’s other medical waste facility on East 138th Street in Port Morris.

Daniels’ fleet of eight diesel trucks currently make 14 trips through Hunts Point each day. The planned expansion would lead to 26 daily trips, or approximately 126 a week, according to Kennedy.

“I don’t see how we can add another 126 trips to this community,” said community board member Robert Crespo at the meeting.

But Daniels representatives told board members that it believes it will take customers from Stericycle, and because it compresses the treated waste it will send fewer trucks through the Bronx than its competitor would.

Some environmental justice groups, however, aren’t convinced.

“How do we know that their expanding their operation would reduce their competitor’s truck traffic,” asked Eddie Bautista, executive director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

The South Bronx already has more than its fair share of trash, and doesn’t need anymore, Bautista said.

“It is an outrageously disproportional burden, being asked to handle 25 percent of the city’s waste already.”

Daniels, which currently has 15 employees in Hunts Point, says it will hire at least 35 more local workers when it expands. The lowest wage it plans to offer is $12 an hour. Truck drivers will earn $18 an hour.

“You can justify doing all sorts of things environmentally unjust based on the jobs” Bautista responded.

“Nobody likes a solid waste plant next door to them,” said Richard Galli, the president of Galli Engineering, which represents Daniels. Galli, whose other clients include Hunts Point-based Sims Metal Management and other private solid waste companies in the South Bronx, says the state imposes tough regulations on medical waste businesses that will ensure that Daniels remains a “good corporate neighbor.”

But private waste industries and other industrial businesses in Hunts Point have done little to improve the quality of life, says Jasmine Ortiz, 25, who lives two and a half blocks from the Daniels Viele Avenue plant. Ortiz says mosquitoes and raccoons plague residents near the industrial sector because businesses, and especially the food markets, do not clean up after themselves.

“It’s hard to keep a clean facility in an area like this. They may say they’re going to pick things up, but after a while they’re going to stop,” she said.

Daniels plans to file a formal application to expand in December, and expects the state to take 12 to 18 months to process it, said Kennedy, who hopes the expansion will be completed in the spring of 2014.

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