Property owner looks to re-bury rubber waste in same location

The owner of two Independence Drive properties where large amounts of sponge rubber waste and dirt have been excavated and stored in large piles now wants to re-bury the waste on the same property.

“In essence, it would go back in the ground but not in the same spot,” said attorney Stephen Bellis, who represents property owner Roger Spinelli of Ronic Enterprises.

Bellis said the sponge rubber debris would be buried in the rear of the properties, with proper permits, and then capped with soil, grass and whatever else is required.

Bellis stressed that the sponge rubber waste — believed to be from the former B.F. Goodrich factory in downtown Shelton that burned down in 1975 — is “only bulky waste. It’s not contaminated.”

Since digging up the debris, Spinelli has learned that the cost to properly dispose of the sponge rubber waste could reach $400,000, according to Bellis.

“It’s not a realistic option that it can be carted off the property,” Bellis said late last week. “It’s very expensive … it’s more than the lots are worth.”

The debris was dug up and is being stored on two vacant lots owned by Spinelli on Independence Drive, a residential neighborhood originally built by the Toll Brothers development company about two decades ago. Spinelli has zoning permission to build two houses on the lots.

Spinelli has received a cease-and-desist order from the city prohibiting more excavation, and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is moving toward issuing a violation notice as well. Spinelli is being cited for removing and storing more material from the site than allowed by his permit.

He had received state permission to dig up to 4,500 cubic yards of sponge rubber waste at the site, but it now appears that much more than that — perhaps 13,000 cubic feet — was unearthed at the site.

It is believed the location was used as an unofficial landfill by the B.F. Goodrich factory at a time when the surrounding area was mostly rural.

Neighbors have expressed unhappiness at the large, unsightly piles that are located just off the road and visible from nearby homes.

“I get why the neighbors are upset,” Bellis said. “It looks terrible.”

In addition to the piles, a large hole, or trench, was created where the debris was removed. The trench often is filled with water, and will need to be filled in.

Bellis said Spinelli should erect a fence around the site as soon as this week, and wants to meet with neighbors to explain the new proposal as soon as an engineer draws up plans for where the sponge rubber waste might now be re-buried.

Bellis said the debris would be put in new trenches in the rear of the two lots.

“It will be like it was before,” he said. “It will be on private land and it won’t bother anyone.”

“I don’t think there’s an easy answer,” said Bellis, noting he has been in regular communication with city land use officials on the situation.

State enforcement

David McKeegan, DEEP environmental analyst, said state enforcement action on the site is nearing because the sponge rubber waste is not being moved off the site to an allowed facility, as required.

“It’s an active enforcement issue,” McKeegan said. “He was supposed to excavate, load and haul, meaning it wasn’t supposed to be stockpiled on-site.”

The material could be legally accepted by certain waste facilities in the area, he said, such as the Wheelabrator trash-to-energy plant in Bridgeport.

McKeegan said he understands why neighbors would be upset with what is happening, calling it a visual problem but not one causing odor problems.

“If I lived in the neighborhood, I’d want to know when it’s being removed,” he said.

At the May 9 Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, P&Z Administrator Rick Schultz discussed how the city is trying to resolve the matter.

“The residents want it removed,” he said. “We’re working on that.”

Schultz said it’s hoped the state will begin enforcement action and not allow the stored waste to remain on the site “in perpetuity.”

He told P&Z members Spinelli had underestimated the amount of sponge rubber waste that would be found in the ground.

“That’s what happens when you do insufficient test borings,” Schultz said.

“It’s never-ending,” commented P&Z alternate Ned Miller during the discussion.