Nashua residents rally against proposed asphalt plant near downtown
Plans to build the new plant have some neighbors concerned about the health issues it may pose.
Around 25 people protested Friday in Nashua near Newport Construction Corporation, the company seeking to build a new batch asphalt plant one mile from the city's downtown.The neighborhood around the proposed site is populated by small businesses, industrial complexes, affordable housing, historic buildings, and new housing projects, and activists say they’re concerned about potential health risks from the plant.
The Granite State Organizing Project, 350NH, and the Conservation Law Foundation organized the protest because they want to advocate for the neighborhood, which has a large number of immigrants. According to U.S. Census data, about 30% of the population in the area is Hispanic and 3% Black.
That worries Angela Mercado, an activist from the Granite State Organizing Project. In the past few days, she has been knocking on doors and telling people about the proposed asphalt plant. She said her goal is to reach Latino residents in particular.
“They don’t have something in Spanish that says this is going on,” said Mercado.
One of the people she reached is Juan Santos, originally from the Dominican Republic, who has lived for 10 years just two blocks from the company parcel. He said his motivation for going to the rally is to protect his grandson's ability to live in a quiet neighborhood.
“I didn’t know anything about this,” Santos said. “Why did the city not inform us?”
According to the company, the proposal aligns with current zoning regulations, but Nashua’s planning board is still weighing whether it is a good fit. The board has requested an environmental study but has not yet published the results.
Bob Feder came from Hollis to join protestors Friday. He waved to cars while holding a sign that read, “Asphalt kills.” He thinks the plant would be a bad use of the land and is worried about the toxic chemicals that the plant may release into the air.
“The Latino community wants to reclaim this place as a nice place to live, and this plant will make that very difficult,” Feder said.
Newport Construction Corporation hasn’t released details about possible emissions from the plant.
Bob Keating, a resident of Nashua for around 50 years, said that asphalt plants might be needed for the country's development, but he thinks such a business so close to downtown shouldn’t be approved.
“It is of allowed use, but I think there has to be some sort of balance,” Keating said.
The Conservation Law Foundation has been organizing other protests in Nashua, asking for environmental justice on topics such as more green space and traffic control. Their motivation for organizing the protest was to help people advocate for themselves and motivate them to go to the next planning board meeting on October 6th.
Arnold Mikolo, an environmental justice advocate from that organization, said, “I want as many people possible to show that day.”