November 20, 2014
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Council pushes to have old landfill near airport properly capped

As a means to protect the health and safety of Warwick residents, as well as maintain the integrity of Buckeye Brook and nearby land, the City Council is requesting the General Assembly properly cap the old Truk-Away landfill located adjacent to property owned by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) for T.F. Green Airport.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla, members of the airport litigation committee, sponsored a resolution concerning the issue, which the council will vote on Wednesday evening during a regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall.

While the landfill ceased operation “many years ago,” it was never suitably capped to prevent damage to the surrounding area, the council members claim.

In 2003, the responsibility of the site switched hands from the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to the Department of Administration (DOA).

According to Vella-Wilkinson, DEM issued a study of the site in 2008 and found that the type of debris that was exposed included medical waste, heavy metal and electronic waste, and as a result, the dirt was stained orange. They then put a temporary cap of interim soil atop the landfill.

“We’ve had the flood since then so I think it’s foreseeable to expect that there is erosion in that area,” Vella-Wilkinson said in an interview Friday morning. “The other concern that I have is that the project basically stopped at its halfway mark in 2008. When I spoke to DEM and DOA, they told me that they aren’t even sure if funding has been set aside for this fiscal year. That says to me that they are not really paying attention to this site in the city of Warwick. They haven’t done anything in three years.”

Vella-Wilkinson requested an inspection of the site and the area surrounding it with a full report. She feels the state needs to supply the funds in order for the site to be cleared.

“They have to have a site remediation plan and apparently their plan is to send a letter of responsibility to the initial companies that added to the waste, so the state isn’t going to take the cost on its own,” she said.

Ron Gagnon of DEM, who is working closely with DOA, said the DOA is working on capping the landfill. The next step for them is to complete the investigation so a final cap will be designed.

“It will incorporate the cap and any monitoring that needs to be done going forward,” Gagnon said.

Merolla said the landfill is a major source of runoff pollution into Buckeye Brook. The resolution, he said, will hopefully remedy the situation.

“The state has other priorities and a limited budget and sometimes they forget about you, but this is a way for us to say, ‘Please don’t forget about us because we’re investing all this money into our infrastructure for sewers to try to clean up Greenwich Bay and Narragansett Bay and yet we have this source of pollution right next to the airport that needs to be capped,’” said Merolla.


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