The prospect of the state permitting a medical waste facility to operate in Mansfield sparked a protest on the steps of City Hall on Saturday.
About 20 residents, including four Mansfield school trustees, demonstrated their opposition to a permit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is considering for RedAway Llc., which has leased a 15,000-square-foot building in Mansfield Industrial Park.
On Thursday, the staff at the state agency recommended that agency Executive Director Richard Hyde approve the permit. Hyde has to wait at least 14 days before rendering a decision, city officials said.
The City Council and the school board have approved resolutions stating their opposition to the permit, citing concerns about noxious emissions so close to homes in southwest Mansfield.
“Our people are going to be directly affected by the emissions,” said school board President Michael Evans, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, which serves residents of mostly lower-income neighborhoods in the affected area. “Just now are we starting to get developers to build homes on our side of town. And here we have this industry that will negatively affect the entire region.”
The Dallas company ran into opposition at an August council meeting when it proposed a facility at 208 Sentry Drive, less than 11/2 miles from Annette Perry Elementary School and hundreds of homes.
The council reacted by imposing a 120-day moratorium on city permits for medical waste plants, allowing city officials to draw up regulations addressing the issue.
In December, the council approved requirements that medical waste companies plead their cases to the council for a specific-use permit. The ordinance also restricts such facilities to the city’s most intensive industrial zoning and includes several restrictions on plant operations.
Even if RedAway gets its state permit, it must still abide by the ordinance.
In RedAway’s initial plan, the facility would take in medical waste such as needles, drug vials and nonnarcotic drugs for processing. The waste would be sterilized by superheated steam in an autoclave to make it safe for disposal in a landfill.
The facility would not have an incinerator, so it couldn’t dispose of biological and pathological waste, such as narcotic drugs, infectious substances or body parts, RedAway CEO Justin Smith said in August. But it could store such waste up to 90 days in refrigerated containers outside the building before transporting it to a site with an incinerator.
The council resolution said the state permit “envisions that 50 tons of waste could be received per day” and that it would be transported from within a radius of at least 400 miles.
Smith could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Several residents near West Broad Street who joined the rally said they already put up with foul odors wafting from the industrial park where RedAway wants to operate.
“The people who are setting this up and OK’ing it don’t live there,” said west-side resident Lena Smith. “It doesn’t matter to them.”
School Trustee Karen Marcucci said the site’s proximity to families “was one of the big reasons the school board felt we should weigh in on this.” She said she and her colleagues attended the rally “to stand behind the resolution we passed.”
The council resolution cited concerns that the facility would not be the best use for the property, that the proposed staffing and security would be inadequate, that liquid waste would be discharged into the city sewers and that there was no odor management plan.
No council members participated in the protest. Mayor David Cook said the city attorney “cautioned the council with regard to making comments prior to possibly considering a specific-use permit from RedAway.”
Cook said some of the electronic messages circulating Friday to alert the community about the state permit action and the rally contained incorrect information. One text said that Hyde would approve the permit Monday. The reality is not as dire, Cook said.
“I like their intentions, but to me it’s not based on the most up-to-date information,” Cook said before the rally. “But it’s good, and they have my full support in what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Councilman Darryl Haynes was surprised Friday evening to learn about the rally and the state agency’s preliminary action.
“I was hoping [RedAway] would give up and go someplace else,” Haynes said. “We did everything we could to make them want to.”
Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641