Rhode Island officials’ lack of urgency and deference to commercial interests have allowed three significant pollution issues to fester. For more than a year, all environmental degradation has been occurring.
It has long been the standard operating procedure of a state more concerned with appeasing businesses than with enforcing the laws they break, despite the fact that this shortsighted approach ultimately penalize those enterprises who go by the law.
Many of the state’s environmental restrictions are selectively enforced, depending on whether you are a man accused of possessing striped fish during the restricted season, a politically influential industry, or a congressman with an economic stake.
The following is a look at the three situations:
The Warwick landfill closed and operated prior to the implementation of stringent rules. No one is certain of what lies beneath 36 acres in the centre of the Buckeye Brook watershed. During the previous years, remediation efforts have consisted of spreading no more than two feet of loam on top of contaminated, abused ground.
During a state examination of the property in June, a former Truk-Away Landfill employee disclosed to the Rhode Island Department of Health that he had been in charge of the dumping of hundreds of drums of chemical waste. These barrels included benzyl chloride, wasted solvents, chlorobenzene, dyes, pigments, intermediate chemicals derived from benzene reactions, phenols, hydrogen peroxide, and benzenesulfonyl chloride, among other substances.
These drums reflect only a small portion of the waste that was or could have been placed to the landfill. Recent year marked the opening of the Truk-Away Landfill, which absorbed municipal and industrial garbage until its closure eight years later.
Long and alarming is the list of materials thrown there: medical waste, electrical waste, paint cans, mercury film packs, fly ash, still bottoms, and hydroxide sludge. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been identified at a location with an oil disposal pit.
Several assessments have been published to examine the existing waste, but little has been done to remove it. The most recent report, a 2,142-page tome, was published by GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc. in June of last year. It was built for DEM.
GZA’s nearly one-year-long site investigation report included the following findings:
Light nonaqueous Phase Liquids (LNAPL) were discovered in monitoring wells for groundwater. As persistent organic contaminants, these hydrocarbons have a propensity to contaminate soil and groundwater over extended durations.
On the landfill’s perimeter, Especially on the northeastern side, it appears that waste was dumped into the wetland region.
Landfill gas test results from two perimeter monitoring probes along the western edge of the facility were found to contain methane concentrations exceeding DEM’s criterion of 25% of the lower explosive limit.
Exceedances for VOCs benzene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, and vinyl chloride were found, along with semi-metals/metals arsenic, cadmium, lead, and nickel.
Some surface Chlorobenzene, semivolatile organic compounds, iron, cadmium, nickel, and zinc levels in water tests exceeded the state’s water quality guidelines.
GZA ultimately concluded, “there is a low probability for considerable impact to ecological receptors in surrounding wetlands.” This conclusion is based on a comparison of pollutant concentrations in surface water and soil samples with screening criteria for ecological risk.”
However, neighbours like Philip D’Ercole remain concerned about a 54-acre property owned by the Rhode Island Department of Administration notwithstanding the environmental consultant’s assessment.
The poisonous brew at the site, along with scant remediation efforts over the previous four decades, continues to irritate and concern neighbours and environmentalists.
Less than one mile separates Brush Neck Cove, Little Pond, and Buckeye Brook from the former landfill on Warwick Industrial Drive. The majority of the dump is surrounded by wetlands, which appear to drain into Buckeye Brook. Dark red and orange-colored soils, indicative of leachate outbursts, have been observed extending from the landfill’s perimeter into the nearby wetlands.
Since many men have resided on Edgehill Road along the shores of Warwick Pond. Because they are concerned that contaminated runoff and groundwater flow from the dump property are entering the pond, they do not eat any of the fish they catch and they do not swim there.
Recently, Philip D’Ercole told ecoRI News that the absence of cleanup is “very frustrating.” He is concerned about the inadequately closed landfill’s long-term environmental effects, public health dangers, and property value.
Friends of Warwick Ponds, a group that D’Ercole helped establish, and other local residents demand an assurance from state officials that there will be no chemical and toxin leakage from the dump into the neighbouring wetlands. He stated that this would probably necessitate the disposal of rubbish and contaminated soil. He recognises that such a project would be costly, but he argues that not properly remediating the property would be even more expensive.
D’Ercole stated, “The landfill has been closed for four decades, but the poisonous chemicals are still present and have the potential to leak into the wetland.” What a shocking absence of institutional control!
DEM has proposed a remedial option that focuses on the removal of light nonaqueous phase liquids, noting that historical sampling reveals that these products contain PCB concentrations that exceed the analytical standards specified by the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Where remediation stands according to DEM spokesperson: “The project’s Remedial Action phase has not yet begun. This phase would begin following the Department’s approval of the Site Investigation Report’s conclusions and the State/PRP Group’s response to the Department’s remaining technical recommendations, as well as compliance with the Site Remediation Regulations’ public notice and comment period requirements.”
Hopkins Hill Sand & Stone, The West Greenwich quarry on New London Turnpike, a subsidiary of Cardi Corp., has been operating without a Rhode Island pollutant discharge elimination system (RIPDES) permit for 16 years prior to DEM’s decision to use some bureaucratic muscle.
DEM issued a notice of violation (NOV) to Hopkins Hill Sand & Stone LLC and the property’s owner, Hopkins Hill Road Realty LLC, for environmental violations stemming from sand and stone mining at the business in late February of last year.
The NOV charged both parties with violating the Water Pollution Control Act of Rhode Island and state water-quality and pollutant-discharge elimination system standards. The enforcement action included a penalty of $67,896. It further compelled the parties to immediately halt discharging treated water and runoff from the facility to surrounding wetlands until a permit is issued and all requisite controls are built and functioning.
During all that time, another Rhode Island business learned that DEM threats are toothless.
Where remediation stands according to DEM spokesperson: “An appeal has been filed on the NOV, thus the ordered acts and penalty assessed in the NOV are stayed until the appeal is resolved. To address the NOV, we are in settlement negotiations with the respondents. “Neither a permission nor cessation of discharges has been obtained.”
Rhode Island Recycled Metals, Since it began operating illegally 12 years ago, the scrap yard on Allens Avenue in Providence has flaunted its disregard for the state’s environmental standards.
Save The Bay urged DEM to take legal action sooner, but it took the state agency six years to respond with legal action. The scrap-metal processing factory is located on a former Superfund site contaminated by a computer and electronics shredding company. The property has been found to contain PCBs.
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