By Paul Tennant
HAVERHILL — The plan to build a food-waste-to-energy plant on upper Hilldale Avenue continues to move forward.
Also moving forward is a campaign by people who live in that part of the city to stop the plant — or at least make sure it doesn't produce excessive odors.
Neo Energy, the Portsmouth, N.H., firm that wants to build the plant on an 11.2-acre tract within a quarter-mile of the New Hampshire state line, appeared before the Board of Health the night of June 21.
Neo later presented its plans to the Conservation Commission, which has jurisdiction over proposed developments near wetlands. Much of the site, located in a wooded area on the outskirts of the city, is wetland.
Anthony Callendrello, chief operating officer for Neo Energy, said at the Board of Health hearing the plant will benefit the environment because it will reduce the amount of food wastes going into landfills. Instead, the methane gas resulting from the anaerobic digestion of food waste would be burned to generate enough electricity for 2,500 homes, he said.
"We're proud of this project. We want to be a good neighbor," he said the night of the hearing. As for the fears people expressed about odors, Callendrello said a biofilter will remove them.
Callendrello could not be reached for this article.
A flier that warns, "Parsonage Hill Under Attack" warns that "food smells like food, garbage smells like garbage." The flier does not have any contact information and it indicates the plant would be located on the west side of upper Hilldale Avenue.
Actually, the land Neo Energy has an agreement to buy is on the other side of Hilldale. The site is now owned by WBC Extrusion Products Inc., according to the city assessors' office.
Neo Energy has asked the state Department of Environmental Protection to expedite the permitting process and bypass the Board of Health. Callandrello told The Eagle-Tribune on June 21 he wants to have the plant built by next year.
Both Mayor James Fiorentini and attorney Michael Leon, who advises the city on environmental matters, have said the local Board of Health should retain the power to regulate the project.
"We think we will be successful on that," Fiorentini said last night on the city's effort to keep the Board of Health in charge of Neo's proposal.
"We're going to take a long, hard look at this," the mayor added.
If it's approved and built, Neo Energy's plant would be the first waste-food-to-energy plant in the United States, Callendrello said. Restaurants, supermarkets, food processors and institutions would pay Neo to take their food waste and dump it into huge tanks at the plant.
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