Trash company ABC Disposal Service, Inc. notified the Rochester Board of Health during the latter’s January 5 meeting that it has filed an application with the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Health to increase the capacity of its facility.
ABC seeks approval of a modification from a maximum daily cap of 890 to 1,500 tonnage over its 61.15 acres at 4850 Cranberry Highway, but accompanying that request was news that the company’s owners plan to sell. “We want to build the company up, you can’t build the company up if you can’t get rid of the trash,” said ABC, Inc. vice president and CEO Michael Camara. “So we decided to sell the company.”
Camara reported that, as of last week, 20 percent of the company’s staff was out with Covid-19.
ABC, Inc. said it has also notified Wareham and Middleboro boards of health of the request as required because the site sits within a half-mile of those towns.
The next step in the process of the application for expansion is a three-week window for public comment, a DEP site-suitability report. Once that result is positive, then within 30 days the matter goes up to the Rochester Board of Health for a public hearing. A hearing officer (umpire) will participate, and after the Board of Health determines yes or no, then any conditions will be assigned to a positive decision at the prescribed site.
A fee structure will be established to reimburse the Board of Health.
Souza said he spoke with members of the Rochester Fire Department and received a positive reaction. He expects permitting to go through. “It’s a tough industry to keep clean, somebody’s always going to complain about something,” he said. “I drive up there every once in a while and I never come out with a flat tire, but that’s all you ever hear.”
Rochester Health Director Karen Walega asked Camara about rain issues and the recent fire at the facility. Camara explained that a pile of trash that grew to a height exceeding the building’s lights ignited after a light bulb broke. He credited Eddie Costello with digging down to the bottom to extinguish the fire. Total Quality Logistics (TQL) helped move the trash.
“I don’t think we can stop the storage outside,” said Camara, who said trash is being kept at least 10 feet away from the building.
ABC’s glass-recycling system has also been affected because of the shutdown of another company in the processing chain. Camara said that the DEP let ABC store its glass out back. The company wanted to recycle it but now must pay to get rid of it.
Glass is typically recycled into sandblasting material. Camara estimates that the enormous amount of glass will all be taken away from ABC’s site over the next six to eight months.
Board of Health Chairman Dave Souza told the ABC representatives in attendance that he was glad to hear a professional approach was being taken to the problem, especially considering the request for an increase in maximum tonnage allowed at the site.
Camara told the board that ABC, as of last week, had 17 drivers out and that he and other company leaders have joined the driving ranks. “Having them see you out there driving is good for morale,” said Camara. “Fortunately, our mechanics can drive, the general manager can drive, I can drive.”
The board ratified the recent Select Board vote in favor of the mask mandate implemented at the Senior Center at the request of the Council on Aging. The COA has since shut down until January 18 due to the rise in Covid-19 cases, per the Select Board’s vote on January 3.
“They’re the ones that made the (mask-mandate) decision in the beginning, and that should be their decision all the way through,” said Souza. “I don’t like the decision. We’re aware of the decision.”
Board member Glenn Lawrence voted against the ratification, but member Sarah Tisdale Eby voted in favor so the board officially ratified the Select Board’s approval of the mask mandate at the COA by a 2-1 margin.
The Board of Health announced a total FY23 budget of $84,727, up from $83,004 in FY22.
Walega reported progress at 514 Front Street, where two cars have been removed and the family is working on removal of the boat at the site. The local boy scouts have volunteered to participate in the cleanup.
According to Walega, a grant from Massachusetts Health Association could lead to the town purchasing Covid-19 test kits from the state for residents’ use.
In her report to the board, Public Health Nurse Connie Dolan said that, as of January 5, Rochester had 170 active Covid-19 cases, a decrease from close to 200 only two days prior. Of the 170 active cases, 90 people infected had been at least partially vaccinated. Dolan said many had had only one dose or two doses but not the booster shot.
To date, Rochester has had 1,081 official Covid-19 cases, but Dolan qualified that those statistics do not take into account rapid home tests. For statistical purposes, antigen (rapid) tests are not official cases. Official cases are always PCR test. “I’ve been getting a lot of calls, it’s time to do a little information push,” said Dolan.
Where it concerns Covid-19 testing, antigen tests are “great for surveillance,” said Dolan, but the state says a positive antigen test should follow up with a PCR test.
“An awful lot of cases now are partially if not fully vaccinated so I think it’s time to do a lot of communication on the difference between the tests,” said Dolan, indicated that all the guidance is on the town’s Facebook page and website.
“Connie’s right on the money. We need to get the information out there. It’s still 10 days (isolation for a positive test), just five if you’re full (vaccination) and masked,” said Tisdale Eby, who was attending the meeting remotely because her son had tested positive.
Dolan said that the infectious period for tracking begins the two days before the onset of symptoms (highest bio load) so those two days and the next two days are the most contagious.
Dolan reported that Police Chief Robert Small asked for boosters for officers, citing close-contact issues. Dolan credited Mattapoisett Public Health Nurse Emily Field for the small handful of boosters that fulfilled the police chief’s request.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Health was not scheduled at adjournment.
Rochester Board of Health
By Mick Colageo