Parallel Products operated a recycling business on Shawmut Avenue for years before expanding into the New Bedford Business Park about five years ago. The company now occupies the former Polaroid facility on Duchaine Boulevard. Parallel did not seek and was not granted a tax incentive for the expansion.

Parallel Products (listener photo used with permission)

Most folks have probably never heard of Parallel Products and I suppose that's a good thing when you are in the business of recycling trash. That is about to change, however.

Parallel Products is asking the state for permission to broaden the scope of its operation to include the collection and processing of sewer treatment sludge and perhaps food waste. Neither of these waste products is welcome in traditional landfills. New Bedford currently pays $2 million annually to ship its sewer sludge to Rhode Island for treatment and disposal.

Food waste creates methane gas, which is bad for the environment but can be captured and used to power trucks, including the ABC Waste Disposal trucks which are used to collect New Bedford's trash daily. A by-product of the processing of food waste can be sold off as fertilizer. Residual material from the processing of the sludge would need to be hauled off-site by train or truck and disposed of at a proper landfill facility.

All of this could have a benefit to the city but many questions remain about the operation. How much sewer sludge and food waste would be trucked to the facility and from where? Would there be smelly trucks traversing our city streets? Would there be issues with odors or rodents? Nearby residents are already concerned about huge mounds of broken glass that are stored at the site.

Proximity to homes on Phillip's Road (Contributed Photo)
Broken glass stored at Parallel Products (Contributed Photo)

The Mitchell Administration says it shares many of these concerns and others. The expansion fits into current zoning for the Business Park and would require no local permits. No local public hearings would be required. There most likely will be public hearings required for the permits Parallel is seeking from the state.

Mayor Jon Mitchell tells me Parallel has done a miserable job in addressing public concerns about this proposal. I agree. Parallel officials were available on site for a briefing on the proposal at 10 a.m. on a Thursday a time when most people are working or otherwise engaged. Parallel Products needs to avail itself to the community through mailings and meetings that are scheduled in the evening when more folks can attend.

What Parallel Products is proposing for the city and the location of the proposed operation raises an awful lot of questions and concerns. Parallel owes residents in the Business Park area an opportunity to ask those questions and to express their concerns.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.