Landfill capping coverage

RIDEM issues deadline, threatens fines in Portsmouth landfill capping

Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 11.21.47 AM.pngThe clock is ticking for the company capping the old landfill in Island Park. Yesterday, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management issued AP Enterprise a "Notice of Intent to Enforce" for allegedly failing to complete the work in the timeframe specified in their original agreement, according to an e-mail sent to interested parties by RIDEM's Mark Dennen. Here's what Dennen said:

"[W]hen the site did not complete closure by the September 2016 deadline, it was referred to our Office of Compliance and Inspection for Enforcement Action. That Office has issued the attached action regarding the site."

The attached Notice of Intent to Enforce (NIE) demands a written response in 15 days, and requires that the capping work be completed within 180 days of receipt of the notice. It goes on to note:

"If respondent promptly and satisfactorily complies with the requirements of this NIE, then DEM may decide to forego the assessment of administrative monetary penalties. Continued non-compliance, however, will result in the issuance of a Notice of Violation and Order, which will include the assessment of an administrative penalty, which may be as high as $25,000 per violation for each and every day that violation continues to exist."

Read the full Notice of Intent to Enforce here.

Portsmouth landfill capping project enters final covering phase

The Portsmouth landfill capping project is now officially closed to any soil not meeting residential standards, according to a letter sent from RI DEM to Arthur Palmer Enterprise (APE) and released to the media this afternoon. According to the terms set forth by DEM in their original approval of the project, the only work allowed on the site now is the grading and shaping of the final cap which must be completed within the next year.

Here's what RI DEM Principal Scientist Mark Dennen said in his cover note:

The following letter was sent on Monday to APE as confirmation that the Beneficial Use Determination, allowing the site to accept alternate soils meeting industrial/commercial standards has expired. As per the original approval, the remaining cover soils at the site will need to meet residential standards. Site closure is required within 1 year.

You can download the DEM letter here.

DEM says Portsmouth dump capping now in compliance

Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management has found that the firm conducting capping operations at Portsmouth's former town dump has cleaned up some bad soil that made its way onto the site and is now in compliance, according to a document provided to media by DEM Principal Environmental Scientist Mark Dennen. In a cover e-mail, Dennen said:

As you are aware, the Department issued a Notice of Intent to Enforce regarding a soil received from Newport that was found to be unacceptable. Since then, soil has been removed, confirmation sampling has been done and APE has agreed to do more frequent sampling. Consequently, a Letter of Compliance was issued today (attached).

As you may be aware, the Beneficial Use Determination will end on September 20, 2015. After this date, AP Enterprises will only be allowed to accept soil meeting residential criteria and will have to complete final capping, grading and seeding activities within 1 year.

In the enclosed "Letter of Compliance," Dennen outlines the remediation steps that Arthur Palmer Enterprise (APE) had taken: removing the soil, disposing of it at an approved location, accepting no additional soil from the site, reimbursing DEM for testing, and providing a plan for increasing sampling frequency to every 2,000 cubic yards.

You can read the full document here.

DEM catches bad dirt at Portsmouth landfill cap

On Monday, RI DEM released information on two recent issues with the ongoing capping project at the former Portsmouth landfill. An e-mail from RI DEM principal environmental scientist Mark Dennen included attached letters to Arthur Palmer Enterprise and their site manager which detailed two episodes where soil with greater than 7 parts per million of arsenic were identified, the remedial actions required, and in one case, the threat of fines. Here's what Dennen said in his cover e-mail:

As you may know, the Department routinely takes split samples of soils received at the former Portsmouth Town Dump to verify sample analyses done by generators.

The enclosed Notice of Intent to Enforce was issued today regarding soils from Newport that were sampled as part of a routine inspection. As explained in the Notice of Intent, our sampling found that arsenic levels were above both levels reported and criteria set forth in the BUD (40 mg/kg). As these levels are not acceptable, soils will have to be delineated and removed. The Department also reserved the right to take additional enforcement action.

Also enclosed is a letter regarding soils accepted from East Providence sampled relative to a complaint. Although arsenic levels are within allowable levels for the BUD, they were significantly higher than reported. These soils will have to be appropriately managed.

You can read the documents here:
590 Bellevue Avenue, Newport
Omega Pond Fish Ladder

DEM demands immediate action on Portsmouth landfill cap

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 10.12.50 AM.pngThe RI Dept. of Environmental Management has issued a response to a plea for more time from the company capping Portsmouth's former town dump, and while they have granted the request for a one-year extension, they stress that this is "final" and have required immediate action to complete the finished sections, according to documents released by DEM today.

In the letter to Arthur Palmer Enterprise, DEM Principal Environmental Scientist Mark Dennen advises APE that although they are granting the extension to the governing agreement, the Beneficial Use Determination Approval, DEM "feels it is necessary to add two conditions."

First, that there will be no further extensions "Upon its expiration on September 20, 2015, the BUDA will no longer be subject to renewal." Dennen notes that any additional request for an extension "will be considered a new application and subject to public notice and public hearing." (The significance of that sentence will not be lost on the APE team, who, like DEM, had to sit through many uncomfortable meetings at the Portsmouth Town Hall over the last few years.)

Second, DEM is requiring immediate work to bring the already completed sections of the site up to final condition with residential soil and grass cover. "Beginning on or before September 20, 2014 and ending November 30, 2014 APE shall cover and seed the eastern slope of the property that abuts residences in the area." This is a rebuke to APE, who had responded to DEM's prior request for immediate action with a proposal to begin the final cover work in six months.

Read the full DEM letter

In addition to the response, DEM also distributed a letter written by the president of the Portsmouth Concerned Citizens, Larry Fitzmorris, and a letter and petition with 58 signatures from former Town Council president Joe Robicheau. Both complain of alleged health risks and other impacts on the neighborhood and urge the DEM to reject the extension.

DEM responded with a by-now familiar correction of several misstatements which you can read here.

Editorial note: Sure seems like someone thinks they can wring another election cycle's worth of Island Park anger out of this issue. I, personally, remain unconvinced. But in the interests of full disclosure, long time readers may recall that Mr. Robicheau and I had a significant disagreement about the responsibilities of the Town in communicating with residents of our uniquely fragile neighborhood in the runup to superstorm Sandy.

Consultant, neighbors respond to DEM on Portsmouth landfill extension

Response from APE.

Two weeks ago, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management responded to a request for a time extension by the company conducting capping operations at Portsmouth's former town dump, and yesterday they released two replies, one from the firm's environmental consultant, and the other from the so-called "Landfill Committee." Both letters address DEM's additional conditions for an extension, a commitment to an end date, and immediate action on final cover for areas already capped.

The consultant, Tim O'Connor & Company, responding on behalf of Arthur Palmer Enterprise, seeks to justify the extension and offers guarantees on timing. O'Connor reiterates their contention that a "lack of active construction projects" contributed to their ability to source fill material, and expands on their assertion about uncertainty of approvals from the CRMC to address additional areas discovered at the edge of the site. "Those series of events created a lack of predictability" which, they say, "hindered Mr. Peter's [the site manager] ability to negotiate with contractors."

"With these events now behind us," the letter continues, "APE and Mr. Peter are willing to commit that the project will complete accepting impacted soils above the residential Direct Exposure Criteria within the next twelve months. It may still be necessary to accept residential soils to finish the cap after that period."

Responding to the second request by DEM, for quick action on finishing and seeding the eastern, already capped part of the site, O'Connor says, "APE understands RIDEM's concerns and proposes to continue final capping activities along the residential boundary as a stipulation of RIDEM approving the final BUDA renewal. APE will complete these capping activities within six months of RIDEM's BUDA approval."

The response from the "Landfill Committee," signed by Debra Cardoza, is a four-page reiteration of previous complaints about the site, and is copied to the Town Council and state legislators. "We will strongly encourage the Council to use this opportunity to object to a further expansion of this project that was initially presented as a one year effort. It is long past time that this deposit of contaminated soils in Island Park comes to an end."

Read the consultant response and the letter from the Landfill Committee.

DEM sets conditions for Portsmouth dump capping extension


The RI Dept. of Environmental Management (DEM) has issued new requirements for the company capping Portsmouth's former town dump, according to documents released by DEM this afternoon.

In a letter dated July 8, AP Enterprise, the firm engaged in the capping project, had requested RI DEM allow another one-year extension on the project back in July, citing delays in getting a CRMC approval and limited availability of suitable soil from construction projects. Similar arguments about the "weak economy" and lack of construction were featured in a similar request a year ago.

Today's response from DEM Principal Environmental Scientist Mark Dennen took a tougher line than the prior request, requiring a plan to address two major concerns before it will allow work to proceed. DEM said that while it recognizes the reasons AP Enterprise is struggling to complete the work, it notes

As these are not under the Department’s control, we are concerned that extending an approval based on economic factors will result in a BUD with no foreseeable conclusion and ultimately no closure. Our main concern is to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood. To that end, the Department needs some assurance that work at the site will lead to a conclusion of capping activities in a reasonable time frame.

Additionally, DEM asks AP Enterprise to complete work on areas of the site which are already suitable for final covering operations.

[L]ocations in the eastern portion of the site that abut residential properties could be brought to final grade and loamed and seeded at any time. The Department believes that final capping activities should proceed as quickly as possible.

Read AP Enterprise's renewal request and DEM's response.

DEM warns Portsmouth on landfill-area development

14apr11_dem.pngAs reported last month, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management was alerted to development taking place on land adjacent to the site of the former Portsmouth landfill, currently being capped by AP Enterprise. Yesterday, they formally notified the town of their concerns in a letter sent to Town Administrator John Klimm, provided to harddeadlines by Mark Dennen of DEM.

[W]e have been informed that properties on the corner of Highland, Pine and Russell Avenues that are currently undeveloped, are being developed. As stated previously, investigations have not been done on these properties so the extent and nature of fill are not known. However, investigations on the APE property have shown exceedences of both residential and industrial/commercial standards for metals, semi-volatile organic compounds and volatile organic compounds. We do not have any reason to believe landfill material on these properties is significantly different from landfill material on the APE property.

We realize that permitting of the construction of buildings and roads is clearly within the Town’s jurisdictions, any activities on the landfill itself, or impacting previously deposited waste, will require advanced approval from the DEM Office of Waste Management before construction activities take place.

Read the full DEM letter (pdf)

DEM tweaks landfill cap plan

14mar18_dem_map.jpgThe RI Dept. of Environmental Management has made several small tweaks to the Portsmouth landfill capping plan, according to an e-mail sent this morning to interested parties by DEM Environmental Scientist Mark Dennen.

Documents in the e-mail cover adjustments to the border of the cap, reduction in the fenced area to accommodate wildlife on the salt marsh, and retaining vegetation barrier at the end nearest the Island Park playground.

In an e-mail exchange with harddeadlines, Dennen explained the changes: "The important thing here is that you want to place your cap over the actual landfill, not over an approximation of the landfill boundary. Hence, the test pitting that was done."

According to Dennen, these changes are still out for approval with the CRMC. Dennen also confirmed that despite the difference in end date for the Water Quality approval, the BUDA would still control: "Water Quality Cert, BUDA and CRMC approvals are all separate approvals. So they all have to be current to proceed." said Dennen.

Modified plan at RI DEM web site
Cap modification approval letter
Cap modification water quality certification

DEM fisks landfill cap opponents (again)

14mar15_torch.jpgOver the past three years, as a private company has been capping Island Park's former town dump, the local torch-and-pitchfork crowd has repeatedly fired off complaints at the RI Dept. of Environmental Management full of factual errors and misinformation (see previous coverage). On Friday, RIDEM responded to the latest screed from the ominously named "Landfill Committee" with a restrained and predictable fact-based spanking.

Here's a sample (black text is the complaint, red is the DEM response):

The homes on the North End of Russell Avenue (West side), are presently bordered by the cap on two sides, the West and South sides. When the cap is expanded, the homes shown on the map on the West side of Russell Avenue will be surrounded by hazardous waste on three sides by the landfill.

The Department’s regulations require that all fill material be covered and closed as the landfill was found to have exceedences of the Department’s standards for a number of contaminants. That residential properties are surrounded by this landfill speaks to how important it is to cap and close this site.

As the Department has repeatedly stated on many occasions that hazardous waste is legally defined and strictly regulated by both the United State Environmental Protection Agency and the Department’s Hazardous Waste Regulations [the most recent version became effective 2/10/2014]. The USEPA also specifically defines the term but the state rules are more stringent. The Department does not now, nor has it ever permitted hazardous waste to be accepted at the site (the original landfilling activities at the site pre-date the Department’s existence). To dump hazardous waste at this or any other unpermitted site could result in significant civil and/or criminal penalties on both a state and federal level.

The Department has required extensive sampling as well as conducting its own split sampling of material accepted at the site to ensure no hazardous waste or soils in excess of its Site Remediation standards are accepted. There is no indication that hazardous wastes were ever accepted as part of the closure activities. This data has been published on the web site and interested parties were notified.

There's also this little gem:

The property on the corner of Highland, Pine and Russell stated on the map as undeveloped, is currently being developed.

The Department was not aware that these roads were proposed for development. This is of concern because the undeveloped portions of Pine Street, Russell Avenue and perhaps Walnut Street are underlain by portions of the landfill that have not been studied or sampled. Its source is believed to be identical to landfill material on the APE property that contains hazardous materials. Construction of a road or buildings on fill material could create significant health concerns and we will contact the Town on this issue.

If I were the developers of that property, I'd certainly be thanking the "Landfill Committee" for bringing this to DEM's attention.

But hey, it's all good. Read the rest for yourself. (100k pdf)

IP Landfill capping 85% complete

According to an email from RI Dept. of Environmental Management environmental scientist Mark Dennen, "85% of soils have been placed to reach the goals of the closure project" at the former Island Park landfill.

The e-mail, sent this afternoon, also included a link to all the quarterly reports filed on the project (the most recent being Q2 2013, when it was 75% complete.) Download from RIDEM (5.1mb PDF)

Portsmouth landfill firm seeks 1-year extension

Island Park landfill.

AP Enterprise, the company capping Portsmouth's Island Park landfill, has filed a request for an additional year to complete the last 20% of the project, according to documents distributed today by Mark Dennen of the RI Dept. of Environmental Management. The "Beneficial Use Determination," under which the work has been proceeding, is set to expire on September 17.

Writing for APE, environmental consultant Tim O'Connor blames the "constraints imposed by both the replacement of the Sakonnet River Bridge and the weak economy" for the slow progress: "A number of competing landfills had temporarily closed," O'Connor explained, which had provided a stream of material. "The competing landfills are back open and Boston soil cannot be economically shipped to Portsmouth at this time."

Also, O'Connor noted, "The sources of soil in our market area of Rhode Island have not been sufficient to find all the necessary shaping and grading material as well as final cap. However, the slow improvement of the local economy should provide enough material to finish in the coming months, but, certainly not by September."

And the Sakonnet River Bridge -- which previously was blamed as a problem for trucks because of weight limits -- now comes in for a new criticism, as O'Connor says that shipments to Portsmouth will be "further discouraged by tolls."

"The primary reasons the project has not been completed are beyond APE's control," O'Connor said, asking RIDEM to grant the request for additional time.

Also in today's communication from RIDEM is a letter closing an issue with soil exceeding the residential limit of 7 mg/kg not being immediately covered, following an on-site inspection that showed "the site is in compliance." Dennen reminds APE of their obligation: "Please be advised that you are responsible for continued compliance with all of the conditions of your 2012 Beneficial Use Determination."

Links to the request for extension and compliance letter.

CRMC approves new test sites in Town Dump capping project

Click to embiggen.

The firm doing capping work in Island Park, AP Enterprise, has received permission from the Coastal Management Resources Council (CRMC) for several exploratory excavation sites to determine the boundary of the former Town landfill, according to an e-mail sent today by the RI Dept. of Environmental Management (RIDEM).

RIDEM Principal Scientist Mark Dennen said in the e-mail, "The owner has applied for and received permission from the Coastal Resource Management Council (attached) to perform exploratory test pitting in the northwestern portion of the landfill. This will allow them to more precisely delineate the areas of historic waste deposition, so that they meet cover requirements."

Here are the documents provided by RIDEM: CRMC approval (139K pdf), CRMC Submission (3.4mb pdf).

Editorial note: The torch-and-pitchfork crowd will undoubtedly begin screaming on Patch and their Facebook group that this is an blatant attempt to expand the capping zone and truck in more highly profitable toxic dirt. But if the purpose of the capping project is to, well, *cap* the area containing toxic landfill, this step would seem to make sense. At least it must have seemed that way to the CRMC and DEM, or they wouldn't have approved it. Of course, if you believe they're in the pocket of the developer (and the aliens in the black helicopters), well, then, all bets are off.

Portsmouth Councilor complains to RIDEM over IP landfill

Landfill site worker power washing truck tires, 8:15am April 8, 2013.

Responding to "a Portsmouth resident," freshman Town Council member David Gleason filed a complaint on March 19 with the RI Dept. of Environmental Management (RIDEM) over activities at the Island Park landfill capping site where, he alleged, "contaminated dirt is blown around in a violent dust cloud," according to a copy of his e-mail posted on RIDEM's Portsmouth Town Dump Bulletin Board.

Here's Gleason's complaint:

I received a call this morning from a Portsmouth resident concerning the proliferation of airborne contaminated soil on Park Ave and Boyd's Lane in Portsmouth, RI. from trucks leaving the site of the "old Portsmouth dump site" which is being filled by or for Palmer Industries. In seeing this for myself today, there was also a police officer there today that took several photos confirming the tracking of large amounts of mud on, what I think are state owned roads. In addition, another resident filmed the conditions there yesterday as the dry, contaminated dirt is blown around in a violent dust cloud. No resident of any part of RI should have this occurring in their neighborhood and with the only two people in DEM's compliance division unavailable to speak with today, I am sending this email.

While we in Portsmouth may not be able to change the situation that DEM is allowing here where contaminants are being brought in to cover this dump site, we can ask that the terms of the BUD(?) be adhered to. Allowing this much contaminated soil onto the roadways and into the air of our neighborhoods is unacceptable if not illegal. Please look into this matter at your earliest convenience! In passing on the citizen's observations, gravity feeding water from a tank into a puddle (of contaminated mud) to "clean" the truck tires leaving the site does not work. He suggested a gas powered pressure washer to clean the tires as a possible solution which I would agree with.

It has also been suggested to me that contaminated soil is being used as "cover" on contaminated fill. This too should be investigated by DEM. Perhaps we all have become too complacent at this site and it requires more oversight by DEM for our resident's safety and health. Thanks in advance for your remedies to this situation. David Gleason Portsmouth RI resident and Councilman (401-524-7660).

Let's just notice Gleason's language for a moment. "Proliferation of airborne contaminated soil," "contaminated dirt," "contaminants being brought in," "contaminated mud," and, finally, alleging that "contaminated soil is being used as 'cover' on contaminated fill."

And here's the RIDEM response:

A Department Engineer inspected the site on Friday March 22, 2013. In his inspection, he made note of two issues, a significant amount of mud on the road and the street sweeper was creating a dust issue when cleaning the road by not applying enough water during the process. The Site Operator who was present agreed to the following remedial measures:

  • Installing a power wash for vehicles prior to exit
  • Improving the street sweeping operation
  • Replacement of stone at the entrance.
  • On Tuesday, March 26, 2013 two DEM inspectors revisited the site. They found the three measure described had been implemented. They also observed that there was not a noticeable buildup of soil in the street. Trucks were not present at the time of inspection although earth moving equipment was operating at the site. At the time, the soil being managed was relatively wet and a dust problem was not observed.

    Sampling results were requested and received for the soils that were being managed onsite. The Project Manager (David Peter) indicated that one of the sources met residential standards while the other two met commercial/industrial standards as required by the BUD. The Department has requested and is reviewing the sampling results.

    Reached for comment by harddeadlines, Mark Dennen, RIDEM's Principal Environmental Scientist, noted that they had taken action as soon as the complaint was filed. "We made APE [Arthur Palmer Enterprise] aware of the complaint the day it was received (3/19/2013)," said Dennen. "A RIDEM inspector visited the site on 3/22/2013 and made suggestions to address the issue. On Monday (3/25/2013), APE sent us photographs to show that they had instituted the recommendations. On Tuesday 3/26/2013, a site inspection by the Department confirmed the issues had been addressed."

    This morning, when this reporter passed the landfill (two blocks from my home) I snapped the picture above of a site worker washing mud off the tires of one of the soil delivery trucks, and personally observed from the condition of Park Avenue that the process seems pretty effective.

    What about all that "contamination?" Said Dennen, "[T]he Department requested analytical data for the material involved. We received and posted over 500 pages of analytical data for this material. The sampling results show that the material involved all met the criteria in the BUD."

    Dennen's laconic summary: "What we observed was a nuisance created by the mud on the road."

    Took me a while to post this because I had to go through the entire 535 pages of soil analysis. And unless you believe that testing labs are faking results, that licensed professionals are signing off on fabricated documents, and that everyone is willing to risk their reputations and livelihood in an intricate, wide-spread coverup, then the collective weight of the evidence does not support the descriptions of contamination offered by Mr. Gleason. While no match for the RIDEM-bashing of prior Town Council President Joe Robicheau, newbie David Gleason, appears, to this reporter, willing to take up the cause of the anti-arsenic crusaders. The torch (and pitchfork) have been passed to a new generation.

    Links: Sampling results (13mb pdf), March 28 RIDEM Field Investigation Report (687k PDF).

    Full disclosure: I live in Island Park, two blocks from the landfill site.

    RI DEM renews permit for Portsmouth Island Park dump capping

    The RI Department of Environmental Management has renewed the permit for AP Enterprise (APE) to continue work capping the former Island Park dump for another year, according to an e-mail sent to interested parties this morning by RIDEM environmental scientist Mark Dennen.

    The document, called a "Beneficial Use Determination (BUD)," spells out the conditions for the site cleanup. DEM promised to post it on their web site, or you can download it here.

    The BUD clearly states that existing work has been in compliance, and that one of the main reasons justifying the extension was the slippage caused by the uncompleted Sakonnet River Bridge:

    As of this date, the grading and shaping activities, as well as placement of cover material has been in compliance with the BUDA. However, less than half of the site has been covered. A significant factor in this delay, as outlined in the renewal application, is that truck traffic is restricted over the Sakonnet River Bridge due to ongoing repairs that were originally anticipated to be done early in 2012 but is still ongoing.

    According to Dennen's e-mail, "[T]here are no changes from previous conditions except that a condition was added to give the Department access when APE employees are not onsite."

    Full disclosure: The great thing about science is that stuff is true whether you believe it or not.

    Governor's office says landfill opponents exhibit "a pattern of unsubstantiated allegations"

    Ryan Crowley, constituent liaison for Gov. Lincoln Chafee, responded "directly on his behalf" by e-mail this afternoon to my letter about the behavior of opponents of Portsmouth's Island Park landfill capping project — printed this week in the Newport Daily News, Sakonnet Times, Portsmouth Patch, and RI Future.

    Regarding the public behavior of the protesters, Crowley responded that DEM was not present during the event at the landfill, but, "at a public meeting earlier that year, individuals from the Department felt the conduct of the opponents was threatening enough that Portsmouth Police were called in at their request."

    And on the matter of the complaints the group keeps lobbing at DEM, Crowley said, "you quite accurately note that there is clearly a pattern [of] unsubstantiated allegations. According to DEM the latest allegation involved a claim that soil was highly contaminated with lead coming from a school in Fall River to the project. When DEM researched the complaint, the City Official quoted denied making any such statement about lead in soil. Both third party sampling and the DEM's own confirmation sampling showed there were no exceedences of lead in any of the soils. DEM says this is an illustrative example of the unsubstantiated complaints received over the course of this project."

    Editorial note: A big thank you to Gov. Chafee. It makes me feel better that the torch and pitchfork crowd aren't the only people who get his attention. Thank you, sir.

    Portsmouth Sen. Ottiano seeks to give locals veto on landfill capping

    Today's GoLocalProv has a story about the nearly one hundred abandoned landfill sites in Rhode Island, and if Portsmouth's Sen. Chris Ottiano (R-11) has has way, capping them could get a lot harder.

    On Feb 13, 2012, Sen. Ottiano appeared before the Portsmouth Town Council and promised to introduce (with Sen. DaPonte of East Providence) legislation on landfills which would provide "More gates for the Town Council or municipality or our constituents to have some say and be able to potentially slow or temporarily stop the process if they see the need." (See 89:40 here)

    Here's the problem: What constitutes "need" -- at least in the case of a landfill in the town of Portsmouth -- is a group (whose spokesperson is a RISC board member) which has, over the past year, ignored the science, distorted facts on a petition, refused to trust test results or the DEM, and used political pressure to try to halt a project to cap an unquestionably contaminated site. These are the voices that Sen. Ottiano's torch-and-pitchfork bill would empower.

    What follows is a letter I sent to Gov. Chafee, DEM Director Janet Coit, and Sen. Ottiano last week, which appeared in yesterday's Newport Daily News:

    (The following post is appended)

    Crossposted from RI Future.

    Island Park landfill opponents ignore the facts and bully those who disagree (including children)

    In March, 2011, a group of protestors wearing respirators and Tyvek suits surrounded my 11-year-old son on Park Ave. "If you think the landfill is safe," they said, "Maybe we should throw you in there."

    Although I was just feet away, I couldn't hear this. I was also surrounded by people shouting and waving signs to keep Mario Hilario from interviewing me about scientifically established safe levels of arsenic. This, after a Patch reporter caught a protester on video yelling in my face, prompting a call to the Portsmouth police.

    Such is the character of the people opposing the landfill capping work in Island Park: they threaten children and shout down those who try to communicate facts. I have a thick skin, but my son was traumatized.

    Over the past year, they lobbed dozens of accusations at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) -- documented on a RIDEM web site -- but none of their paranoid speculations have survived contact with reality.

    When you read the RIDEM responses, you find phrases like, "The characterization that the Department chose between the Commission and Dr. Vanderslice is not accurate," and, "These assumptions are completely inconsistent with the Regulations, the Commission's recommendations or actual site conditions," and, pointedly, "As is frequently the case on meetings about controversial topics, recollections and interpretations about what was said, as well as speculation on the motives of the participants, are frequently at odds. At this point, the Department feels it has reached the point where it should simply be recognized that the commenters' recollection and interpretations of what was said are at odds with the Department's participants."

    That last one is about as close as a public official ever gets to telling someone they are flat-out lying.

    But the opponents have little choice, because the facts are inconvenient. Batches of soil brought in over the past month were tested -- -- and tested again in response to yet another baseless complaint. Levels of arsenic and lead were well below residential limits. fr sampling final report[1].pdf.

    I do not blindly trust developers or government agencies, but when a year of evidence accumulates, the burden of proof has shifted to the opponents. The facts show this project reduces the risk to our neighborhood from an uncapped landfill full of documented contaminants.

    It is time for elected officials to stop pandering to the uninformed and misinformed: This group had a meeting with the Governor arranged, had their questions answered personally by the RIDEM Director, and had state legislators representing their point of view at Town Council meetings. Enough.

    It's time for our legislators to stick up for the facts and the good of our community. And it's time for them to stick up for my son.

    John G. McDaid

    Governor Lincoln Chafee
    RIDEM Director Janet Coit
    Senator Chris Ottiano
    Senator Susan Sosnowski
    Rep. Jay Edwards

    Portsmouth landfill capping 1/4 done, DEM monitoring finds no soil issues

    Grading work at Park and Mason
    Grading work at the corner of Park Ave and Mason in Island Park, Portsmouth.

    This month, work on Portsmouth's old landfill in Island Park has reportedly reached the one-quarter completion mark, and recent tests of soil deliveries have shown no unacceptable levels of contaminants, according to sources at the RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and a spokesperson for the contractor.

    The area along Park Ave between Boyd's Lane and Mason Ave has been fairly busy over the last month, with dump trucks bringing in soil several days a week as part of the ongoing effort to cap what was once a town dump, determined by RIDEM to have dangerous levels of contaminants.

    The owner of the property, AP Enterprise, is working with Massachusetts remediation firm Site Restoration Technologies to execute the plan in the RIDEM-approved Beneficial Use Determination (BUD). According to RIDEM's Mark Dennen, who has been monitoring the process and conducting site inspections, the soil coming in on the trucks has all met appropriate standards.

    "The vast majority of the soil brought to the site in the past month is from the Morton School Project in Fall River," Dennen said in an e-mail exchange. "This soil was tested by a third party for the full suite of contaminants; TPH, VOCs, SVOCs, PCBs and metals." (View results here.) Some additional soil came from a bridge project in Pawtucket, Dennen said, and he provided a link to those testing results as well.

    Dennen also sent the most recent site report from a visit last month, as well as the results of an independent sample he took during the visit, which also showed acceptable levels of both arsenic and lead. The report shows that the arsenic level was 2.6 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) which is less than half the residential limit of 7mg/kg, and lead came in at 15mg/kg, which is one-tenth the residential standard.

    David Peter, a principal at Site Restoration Technologies, provided details on the project status in a phone interview. "It's about 25% done," said Peter, explaining that between 40 and 50 thousand tons of soil had already been brought in to the site. Peter said that they were "hoping to have it done this year," but that a variety of factors were slowing things down — notably, the impact of the recession on the construction industry (which would generate fill) and the inability to use the Sakonnet River Bridge. "We would probably be done by now if the Sakonnet River Bridge was done."

    Peter said they had prioritized work to cap the southeast corner of the site, near the intersection of Park Ave and Mason — which is a school bus stop. "We are using our heads," he said. "That's the area of greatest potential impact." The plan, he said, was to get that section graded, capped with the required two feet of residential-grade fill, and planted with grass seed. "When people go to the beach, we don't want it to look like a construction site."

    Editorial note: I have read all the questions raised with RIDEM by Larry Fitzmorris and Tom Casselman, and in addition to their puzzling charting style (numbers increase to the RIGHT on the X-axis, guys) and their questionable command of English (what, exactly, is an "expediential" relationship between two variables?) I find their arguments weak. I live just a couple of blocks from this site, so our family has skin in the game. Show me some data that says I should be worried, and I'm willing to be convinced. But in the meantime, I would like to ask our elected officials to stop pandering to opponents of this project.

    Island Park dump capping site gets a chain-link fence

    Workers were at the site of the former Town dump today, ringing the location with what appeared to be 8-foot posts and beginning to place chain link fencing around the site, where work is proceeding to cap the old landfill.

    March Madness at Town Council on Monday: Arsenic, marijuana, and skateboarding

    The Portsmouth Town Council has a full bracket of PCC-sponsored mayhem on Monday, and I would urge all citizens interested in respect for science, medicine, and the right of our children to play as they wish in our public parks to attend.

    Under old business, Paul "Transparancy" Kesson has an agenda item to "request that the Council Direct the Town Solicitor to prepare and ordinance limiting contaminates in fill material to the levels existing on land to be filled." Yes, the Council clearly knows better than the RI DEM, the Federal government, and the international scientific community about safe levels of arsenic. If you care about science, the right to use compost, or our taxes (see my previous posts) you'll want to encourage the Council to think long and hard about this one.

    Okay, well, maybe just think long.

    Then, former PCC director "Cheshire" Kathy Melvin has requested an agenda item, "Request Council Involvement in Approval Process for Locating Marijuana Center in Portsmouth Industrial Park." While I suppose it's possible that Ms. Melvin wants to urge the Council to speed the process along to get medical relief to those who need it, my gut tells me that's not what's going to be requested. Where were Ms. Melvin and the Council when CVS and RiteAid were stocking store shelves in our town with oxycodone? I'm shocked. Shocked, I say.

    And to round out the trifecta of wacky, Portsmouth Police Chief Lance Hebert has an item, "Request Council Direction on how to Proceed re: Signage - Skateboarding at Island Park Playground/Police Dept." If you've read the coverage in Patch, you'll know that a new sign banning skating appeared in the Island Park playground, and my guess is that the Chief is going to ask the Council for an ordinance to back it up. Journalists are always looking for hidden connections, and while correlation is not causality, the fact that some of the most vocal landfill wingnuts are also the core of the anti-skate crowd makes me go, "hmmm." Not that the drumbeat of "who approved the aresenic" rhetoric about Town Administrator Bob Driscoll could have scared him into putting up a no-skating sign. I would never believe that. Nope. Not me. Remember that Descartes fundamental axiom is more properly stated as Dubito ergo sum, which makes much more sense when you think about it.

    I'll admit, I haven't been going to Council meetings. Given the 4-member PCC bloc, it just hasn't seemed worth trying to reason with them. But these are issues that touch everyone in the community, and even if they're intent on corkscrewing Portsmouth into the ground, I think they should hear from us. Hope to see you there.

    Full disclosure: I was a member of the Island Park working group that attempted to find a mediated solution on the skate park, and I was on the side of the skaters.

    Arsenic Fact of the Day: Arsenic is not making you sick, because it's not there yet

    In this final installment, we'll ponder the interrelationship among misinformation, the power of suggestion, and the placebo effect. At the public hearing on January 18, at least one Island Park resident seemed to be alleging a connection between the project and health effects. Here's the allegation and what the DEM said in the Beneficial Use Determination (BUD), available on the DEM web site.

    Here's DEM's response to the assertion:

    Health conditions have gotten worse since dirt was placed there.

    The material that is the subject of the hearing has not been placed yet. Since the material that has already been accepted meets the Department’s health based standards, we have no reason to believe it has or will cause health problems. Anyone believing they are suffering an environmentally based health condition should have their physician contact the Department of Health.

    Editorial note: I strongly encourage anyone who lives in Island Park to read the entire BUD and get the facts.

    Arsenic Fact of the Day: Will arsenic increase my taxes? No. But...

    One of the more thought-provoking questions at the public hearing on January 18 came from Island Park resident Laura Rogers about the relationship of the capping project to taxes. Here's the transcript and what the DEM said in the Beneficial Use Determination (BUD), available on the DEM web site.

    Laura Rogers
    Is my taxes gonna be increased due to my front yard being arsenic blown on it?
    Public hearing transcript, page 16, lines 8-10

    While Ms. Rogers' initial question has a simple answer, the larger implications outlined in the DEM response should give every taxpayer in Portsmouth pause:

    Will taxes increase because arsenic is blowing on it?

    The Department does not understand how windblown dust would increase taxes. However, we understand the concern about how the site could affect the Town’s finances. The Town is financially responsible for closure of the landfill under both the Department and Federal EPA regulations if the closure no longer occurs under the voluntary landfill closure program via the approved APE plan.

    Both the Department and the Federal EPA have the right to pursue enforcement action against the Town, including requiring the Town to complete the closure of the site, assessing fines or seeking reimbursement for work done by federal or state agencies. Also, the Bona Fide Perspective Purchaser Agreement with APE does not prevent either party from pursuing reimbursement from responsible parties.

    Read those last two grafs again. If those seeking to block APE have their way, the town is on the hook for a cleanup and cap.

    Do you care about your taxes?

    Editorial note: I strongly encourage anyone who lives in Island Park to read the entire BUD and get the facts.

    Arsenic Fact of the Day: Lack of information extended to Portsmouth Town Council

    Today we'll hear the DEM's response to Portsmouth Town Councilor Judi Staven, who provided official comments at the public meeting on January 18. Here's part of the transcript and what the DEM said in the Beneficial Use Determination (BUD), available on the DEM web site.

    First, let's hear Ms. Staven in her own words:

    Um, as you can tell, people are afraid. All right? That's what's going on here. And part of it is because -- a big part is what everybody's been saying. There was no notice for this. I don't know what's going on. Nobody knows what's going on. And it scares people. You know, you hear arsenic, you hear raising levels and you live next to there, it's a problem.

    See the BUD for rest of transcript. And here are the DEM responses in italic.

    • People are afraid.
      Agreed. The Department believes some of the fear may be the result of misinformation about the site and proposed arsenic levels.
    • Notice was not adequate.
      See Adequacy of Public Notice.
    • Commenter was specifically told in an e-mail that it was supposed to be an informational meeting and not a public hearing. Given that the public notice didn't say there would be a stenographer it has been misrepresented.
      When the commenter originally requested a meeting, several formats were discussed, including a discussion during a meeting of the Town Council as well as an informational workshop. Given the level of concern, it became readily apparent residents wanted to be heard on the issue. Therefore, the press release was sent to the commenter (as well as media outlets and interested parties who had contacted the Department) on 1/14/2011 that contained the following statement: "Representatives of DEM and AP Enterprises LLC will present information about the proposal and answer questions. Interested parties will have an opportunity to submit comments following the question and answer session." We do not see how this could be construed as misrepresentation.
    • Commenter resents the Department walking in and demanding we do this.
      The Department was more than accommodating to the wishes of the council. To have not allowed people the opportunity to comment for the record when the press release clearly stated: "Interested parties will have an opportunity to submit comments following the question and answer session" would have been completely unreasonable.

    Editorial note: I strongly encourage anyone who lives in Island Park to read the entire BUD and get the facts.

    Arsenic Fact of the Day: cap irrelevant in hurricane

    Today's arsenic fact is the DEM's discussion of the nightmare hurricane/flooding scenarios advanced by opponents of the project. Here's what the DEM said in the Beneficial Use Determination (BUD), available on the DEM web site.

    There have been comments of concern that by creating this large mound of soil, it will lead to catastrophic consequences for the neighborhood in the event of a hurricane. Furthermore, the claim is that the slope will worsen a hurricane impact by its physical presence. The Department's disaster debris coordinator was also part of the review team for this application. We have also discussed the issue with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. The drainage plans for the proposed work have undergone extensive review and received approvals from CRMC, the Town of Portsmouth, as well as DEM. Storm event and drainage calculations are required a part of these reviews. As it is within the 100 year coastal flood plain, the tidal surge of a category 3 hurricane could be devastating for the residents of the area. Even if the landfill did not exist, the catastrophic wind and flooding from such an event could result in the release of a large volume of other hazardous materials to the area; oil (from heating oil tanks), gasoline (from cars, mowers, boats and gas cans) and household chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, paints, and cleaners). Based on the technical review, a 3-5% slope on the landfill will not make a discernable difference to the flooding pattern associated with such an event. Furthermore, having a cap on the landfill, as compared to its current condition, would lessen the effects of a hurricane spreading contamination that already exists at the site.

    Editorial note: I strongly encourage anyone who lives in Island Park to read the entire BUD and get the facts.