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Medical waste plant plan draws cheers, jeers

February 14, 1998


Staff Writer

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A debate over whether a medical waste treatment plant should be built in the Paw Paw Industrial Park has divided Morgan County residents.

"We're separated by two mountain ranges and a world of indifference," said Paw Paw Mayor Helena Moser, who supports the plant.

Moser said the 25 to 50 jobs that the plant would create are needed in Paw Paw, where flooding in the 1980s wiped out manufacturing plants.


"We don't know why people who don't even go into Paw Paw should decide what we have for jobs," said Moser, who like many Paw Paw residents travels 35 miles to Winchester, Va., for work.

But those who live along the expected route of the four- to six-ton trucks to the plant's proposed location said they worry about possible hazards posed by the trucks if they should wreck on the winding mountain roads through Morgan County while carrying infectious waste from hospitals and doctors' offices.

"A deer could jump out in the road and knock one of these trucks off into the side and into a culvert and spread hepatitis," said Nina Bennett, of Paw Paw.

"I don't see why Morgan County should be so desperate for industry," said Angela Bell, of Berkeley Springs.

"We don't need to jeopardize our health or our reputation," Bell said.

"This has been a wonderful area environmentally," Bell said.

Doyle Payne, a Virginia businessman, has been rebuffed in his efforts to build a medical waste treatment plant in Howard, Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland.

Now he's seeking to build the plant in Paw Paw, an isolated community in western Morgan County where some residents have to travel about 30 miles to reach a grocery store.

Moser said the community needs jobs, but has not overlooked researching the potential risks of a plant.

Steam is used in the process to treat the infectious waste, so the materials are not burned.

Moser said the process is safe.

Morgan County Commissioner Phil Maggio said he asked U.S. Rep. Bob Wise's office to research the plants and discovered there has not been a single state or federal violation at any of 25 similar plants using the same technology across the country.

Maggio said he was not endorsing the plant, just gathering information for residents.

As he moderated Friday's public meeting at the Morgan County Courthouse, Maggio held up both hands, asking the residents to refrain from shouting out their questions and comments.

Payne said he would start with handling about 25 tons per day and eventually increase to 75 tons per day.

Nancy Ward of Paw Paw said she worries about hazardous waste because of her health problems, but she said she believes the process is safe and the town needs the jobs.

"We want it in Paw Paw. We are economically deprived," Ward said.

There will be another public meeting next week to hear residents' concerns.

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