PRESS RELEASE: Save the Sound brief highlights need for New Haven to address environmental justice hazards at Wheeler Street waste facility

NEW HAVEN—Save the Sound filed a brief yesterday in state Superior Court after being granted environmental intervenor status in the case of Murphy Road Recycling, LLC and Airline Avenue Realty, LLC v. New Haven City Plan Commission. At the center of the case is a solid waste facility on Wheeler Street in New Haven that community members and concerned organizations have testified is an environmental justice hazard to the Annex—one of Connecticut’s most environmentally overburdened neighborhoods. In its brief, Save the Sound highlighted health and quality of life issues arising from the facility and argued that the New Haven City Plan Commission lawfully used its zoning authority to address these concerns. Save the Sound has been involved in the fight against this environmental injustice for nearly three years. 

Murphy Road Recycling (MRR) receives up to 967 tons of waste daily, six days per week. Among neighbors’ complaints are the raceway of trucks to and from the facility, “horrendous banging noise[s]” at 3 a.m. and earlier, persistent “sour” and “dirty” odors, and rats. The City Plan Commission attached conditions to the facility’s most recent special permit to reduce the impacts of noise and pollution from idling trucks, litter, odors, and vermin. The owner of the property, Airline Avenue Realty (AAR), and MRR (the operator of the solid waste transfer facility) have claimed that the Commission overstepped its authority and acted arbitrarily.  

The Annex neighborhood already suffers the cumulative effects of not only the MRR facility but also I-95, a freight trucking firm, an oil storage “tank farm,” maritime port traffic, a water pollution control facility, and an oil-fired power plant, which together degrade the air quality, aggravate health conditions such as asthma, and significantly deteriorate the quality of life for residents in this neighborhood. 

“The transfer station’s impacts are disproportionately affecting low-wealth and BIPOC residents, who have historically faced barriers to reporting these impacts and having their concerns addressed,” said Jessica Roberts, staff attorney for Save the Sound. “The property is located near schools, churches, parks, day care facilities, and residential homes and apartments—places where many people live and work and play. They deserve a safe environment.” 

“This area has already been negatively impacted by red-lining (starting in the 1930’s), the destruction caused by building I-95 through the neighborhood, and the expansion of bulk-storage and other low-value land uses,” said Anstress Farwell, president of the New Haven Urban Design League. “The systematic practice of devaluing low income and marginalized communities such as the Annex is a longstanding problem, which has been harmful to residents of this area and the city as a whole. As a city, we must pursue every opportunity to heal these damaged places, and do no further harm.” 

Save the Sound maintains the Commission acted within its authority to protect the community from the impacts of a solid waste facility. In its brief, the organization urged the court to deny AAR and MRR’s appeal of the Commission’s conditions on their permit, arguing that the Commission’s decision to impose these conditions is fully supported by the extensive record. 

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