BURLINGTON - A proposed exterior hazardous waste storage container riled the Planning Board up during this past Thursday night's meeting.

The container is being proposed on the MilliporeSigma campus at 600 Summit Drive in Burlington. The exterior structure would be a prefabricated storage unit constructed to meet code requirements for the storage of hazardous materials. The installation includes an extension of utilities from the existing building to the storage container, along with a foundation and concrete walkways as needed for the movement of 55-gallon drums from the existing building to the containers and from the container to the existing designated pick-up location.

Proposed to stand 36-ft. long and 9-ft. high, it looks like a “robust shipping container” in the overhead renderings shown during the board meeting. The need for this stems from a room in the adjacent building where the chemicals are currently stored and utilized.

“The compliance with that room on the first-floor of the MilliporeSigma building was in jeopardy,” said a representative of MilliporeSigma. “Being on the first-floor, it is almost impossible to properly vent, so creating an exterior storage container was the only way to make this process safe.”

The storage container is deemed as a “main accumulation area” for hazardous waste from the first-floor room of the building. From there, the chemicals will be picked up by Clean Harbors, as waste management company. The chemical waste in question is used by scientists at MilliporeSigma.

“The external storage container is built like a bomb shelter and meets all the state building safety codes,” declared a MilliporeSigma representative. “We were steering by experts to move forward with the external storage container option. It is compliant, safe and cost-effective.”

MilliporeSigma confirmed they plan to camouflage the container with a fence, vegetation and walkway.

A precedent

The planners always prioritize structural aesthetic styles highly, but their primary concern with this site plan application pertains to hazardous waste storage containers becoming commonplace in Burlington with the recent and continued influx of life science businesses locating in town.

“I see this as setting a precedent, where you will see these popping up around town,” voiced Planning Board member Barbara L’Heureux. “I am not a fan.”

Fellow board member Michael Espejo firmly avowed he “doesn’t care if the storage container looks like Disney World.” It is clearly not about how the containers look in Espejo’s viewpoint, but the potential of how many may end up in Burlington, if the planners approve this application.

MilliporeSigma assured the board setting this type of precedent in town isn’t their goal, but that they don’t mind being the first to work with the planners to ensure both sides get what they want with this unprecedented type of storage container.

“We are not looking to set a precedent, but we do want to collaborate with you,” professed a MilliporeSigma representative. “If we are the guinea pig on this, that is fine. We signed a lease to reside at that campus, and we are not going anywhere.”

The container, if located on Summit Drive, would be inspected by the Board of Health annually and the “main accumulation area” needs to be inspected weekly to ensure all the safety codes are met. For example, something checked could entail making sure plastic containers are used to store corrosive materials, rather than metal containers, or no spillage is occurring.

The board inquired about viewing other firsthand examples of this type of storage container, and the applicant advised the closest one is located in Woburn. The planners are expected to visit where it is located. The applicant will provide a finalized rendering of the proposed container, with fencing, vegetation and walkway.

All parties are also waiting on an official recommendation and comments from the Burlington Board of Health, so their guidance will go a long way in determining the end-result of this proposal. The planners will wait until the Board of Health weighs in on this matter at its next meeting on Nov. 9, so this matter was continued to the Planning Board’s meeting on Nov. 18.

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