Health issues raised over playing fields next to runway

John Howell
Posted 10/2/14

Now that construction is nearing the halfway point on oftball and soccer fields to replace those at Winslow Park people living in the neighborhood are begging the Rhode Island Airport Corporation not …

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Health issues raised over playing fields next to runway


Now that construction is nearing the halfway point on oftball and soccer fields to replace those at Winslow Park people living in the neighborhood are begging the Rhode Island Airport Corporation not to let children play there.

In fact, Wilbur Avenue resident Albert Gaudet predicted, if RIAC moves ahead with the fields, “the parents are going to boycott the park” because of jet exhaust fumes.

Neither the playing fields nor how clearing the area of trees has affected the neighborhood was the designated topic of Tuesday evening’s RIAC workshop at the Buttonwoods Community Center. Rather, as explained at the outset, the purpose of the session was to discuss the eventual placement of the air quality monitoring station that was shut down and temporarily relocated from the site of the fields.

And while there appeared consensus the station should be returned to close to where it had been, if anything to measure the level of pollutants children could be exposed to, it was the overall impact of the airport to the neighborhood that was the focus of complaints.

“I want out,” said Janice Pangman whose home on Rowe Avenue abuts the site of the future Winslow Park. “Please, you bought the other part of the neighborhood out, it’s our turn now.”

Several in the audience of 45 chanted “Buy us” to echo her plea.

Before holding up a yellow blanket that was discolored after she had used it to shut of air flow from upstairs rooms, Pangman said, “Putting children there [at the future fields] is a big mistake.”

Pangman said the blanket, even though it was inside her home, is proof of the polluted air children would be subjected to. Pangman complained of burning eyes and throat because of the increased level of jet fumes since trees were removed to build the fields.

RIAC counsel Peter Frazier reasoned that the current fields off Main Avenue are in line to the runway, putting players under the planes and in the runway protection zone.

“Being on the side of the runway is superior,” he said.

No one at the meeting bought it.

Asked yesterday about the health and safety of locating the fields next the runway, Mayor Scott Avedisian was comfortable with the site, pointing out that the Departments of Environmental Management and Health had reviewed it.

“I think Kelly [Fredericks] is working on that,” he said, referring to a buffer to the fields and the neighborhood. “He’s looking at the options.”

Reached yesterday, Fredericks said, “We are looking to see if there are some buffer things we can do to at least reduce the fume and the noise issue.”

Fredericks also said there would be additional meetings to solicit the input of neighbors as construction projects proceed.

The existing Winslow Park is in the path of a runway extension that will also require the relocation of Main Avenue. As part of the agreement, under which the City Council dropped legal action against the longer runway, RIAC agreed to relocate the fields.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who was at the meeting, came under attack for favoring the location for the fields.

“They [RIAC] didn’t care 20 and 30 years ago and they don’t care now,” charged Roy Dempsey of Governor Francis Farms. “Who put this ball field next to the runway?” he asked rhetorically. “She’s the one who put those ball fields there.”

Rob Cote said the decision to relocate the fields next to the runway “speaks to the lack of knowledge of our public officials…you’re going to put kids playing next to jets.”

Vella-Wilkinson responded that her preferred site was the Knight Campus of CCRI, but members of the Board of Governors for Higher Education rejected it. She said a portion of Bend Field had been considered for the two soccer leagues, but an agreement could not be reached between them as to which would have control. A third option, which she said she refused to consider, was not to have the leagues play.

“My vote was with CCRI and I fought it all the way up to the governor,” she said.

In the end, with no other alternative, she pointed out, the council endorsed the site for the fields by 9-0. In a call yesterday, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur recalled, in approving the airport agreement, the council placed a number of requirements on RIAC.

“This was not rubber stamped,” he said.

Under the current schedule, the fields are to be ready for play by next July.

It was the nearly complete removal of all the trees that provoked the most complaints.

“Did anyone think of the effect of taking down all those trees?” asked Rowe Avenue resident Christopher Ougheltree, looking to RIAC representatives, who remained silent. “There’s no buffer there anymore. It seems like you don’t consider the neighbors…we’re an after-thought.”

He complained of the increased level of noise and fumes, as did others.

As for relocating the air quality monitor, Frazier said RIAC had not followed the provision as provided by the law but it was an emergency situation because of the construction.

“RIAC’s lack of planning is not our emergency,” countered Michael Zarum.

Zarum, who closely follows airport developments, said air quality readings meet federal standards because those standards fail to consider ultra-fine particulates that, up to fairly recently, couldn’t be accurately measured.

“They [the readings] don’t breach the federal standard because it’s not the right standard,” he said.

Zarum said the area RIAC cleared of homes some years ago should have been left as open space.

“RIAC knew this was coming and they failed,” he said.

The issue was also raised whether the neighborhood abutting the current Winslow Park would see a similar leveling of trees, which serve as a buffer. Fredericks said yesterday, with the runway extension of 1,534 feet, RIAC would need to extend the runway protection zone, requiring the removal of a significant number of trees.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Rep. Joseph McNamara reported that the Warwick delegation to the General Assembly favors extending the law requiring RIAC to conduct air quality monitoring. The law has a sunset provision that takes effect next year, although under the agreement with the city RIAC must conduct two additional years of testing. Currently, RIAC has four monitoring stations around the airport. Rep. Eileen Naughton is introducing the extension that was endorsed earlier in the day by Mayor Avedisian, Ward 1 Councilman Steve Colantuono and Vella-Wilkinson.

Responding to complaints of dust related to the field construction, Kelly Fredericks, RIAC president and CEO, said measures are being taken to help neighbors.

“Let us know what the issue is,” he said.

RIAC personnel also said that steps are being taken to reduce “the shaking” of homes caused by compacting equipment.


20 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • patientman

    Does anyone know if Rocky Point could be suitable?

    Thursday, October 2, 2014 Report this

  • Reality

    This is an absolute disgrace. Vella-Wilkinson was responsible for getting the ball fields moved to the airport. She was asked by other city councilors to assist with the negotiations at CCRI but she refused their help and said she could handle it. Great negotiating put thousands of Warwick children at risk to get cancer later in life.

    How could anyone in the right mind put young kids within 150 yds of an active runway. The Mayor said he is comfortable putting the fields there.....the same Mayor who stood on both sides of airport expansion. We never new if he was for or against it.

    Wasn't Rep. Shecachi paid as a consultant by RIAC to get the ball fields moved to their new location? What is his culpability is this pending disaster ?

    Thursday, October 2, 2014 Report this

  • RoyDempsey

    God, I am glad Avedisian "was comfortable" with the location. He was probably also comfortable sitting at home while these Warwick residents were pleading for relief from what some stated was the most significant deterioration in their quality of life since they have lived in Warwick. And what's this, the person that is suppose to be the chief executive of this city leaves it to an outside source to determine what is good for the people that pay is salary. Why wasn't Avedisian at this meeting? Isn't it enlightening to all when RIAC's Mr. Fredericks states “We are looking to see if there are some buffer things we can do to at least reduce the fume and the noise issue.” This has been in the planning stages for months and now he is looking at "some" things to at least "reduce", fumes and noise issues?

    The people at that meeting deserve answers; but, it is not just those residents. The process that got us to this point was faulty and apparently mismanaged. The people of Warwick deserve better. No resident of Warwick should go through this. If Avedisian is so lax, the council should take immediate action. Call for a halt to construction, review the alternatives, and get the residents involved.

    Thursday, October 2, 2014 Report this

  • dickcoutu

    I currently reside across from one of the 6 softball fields at it's present location. I've been here since day one (or since 1953

    at the same location).

    I attended Tuesday night's meeting as an outsider and for informational purposes. I CANNOT BELIEVE how upset the neighbors are and

    I agree 100% with everyone who commented. They have every right to be upset. Please, buy them out.

    The fields should not go there!... PERIOD!

    When they were planning this in the early stages they should have told Apponaug Girls Softball League sorry, we have to reduce the

    number of fields to 4 due to capacity and space limitations which in my opinion is still too many.


    On this web page they boast how big the league is.

    "Apponaug Girls Softball, the state's largest girls fastpitch softball organization".

    What they won't tell you (and I think this is as just as upsetting as what the Lake Shore Drive neighbors are currently

    experiencing with the construction):

    NOTE: It took me several years to figure this one out.

    Everyone knows Winslow Park is home to the Apponaug Girls Softball League.

    What most DON'T KNOW (And they won't tell... RIAC or Apponaug Girls Softball League board members) it is also home to the CCRI Lady

    Nights softball team, the Toll Gate Lady Titans High School softball team and The Pilgrim Patriots High School softball team.

    When it comes to tournaments, they the AGS will only post their "sponsored" tournaments on their web site

    There are other additional tournaments held at Winslow Park but you have to do your research online.

    The "softball" season runs approximately from the 3rd week of March to the second or third week of October.

    I thought I would be the first one to inform you of what you can expect down the line.

    Thursday, October 2, 2014 Report this


    I wonder were all the fire wood went @ 250 a cord. who pocket is it in and y didn,t rob get the picture taking it. that right the wood was the air ports.

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • Unionthug

    Rob was to busy yelling at his own kids.

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • RoyDempsey

    That was a constructive comment SteveD. Does not help these residents or the rest of Warwick

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • Unionthug

    Tell that to Rob. He films us. I've watched him be an a$$ to his own family, what has ever done to help out the city...

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • Unionthug

    When Rob stops hiding in the woods like a jealous ex lover then I'll stop talking about him.

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • Thecaptain


    You are such a blowhard liar and an ass. Why dont you grow the balls to say that to my face you coward moron.

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • Unionthug

    What bush do you want to meet behind?

    Friday, October 3, 2014 Report this

  • Hemi_Royed

    As Alan Jackson sings " Remember Wen"

    "the Captain" aka Rob Cote. Here's the real Rob Cote:

    News Release

    RI Department of Environmental Management

    235 Promenade St., Providence, RI 02908

    (401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

    For Release: June 5, 1998

    Contact: Bob Ballou 222-4700 ext. 4420

    Martin Cappelli 222-6768


    PROVIDENCE: A Warwick man was arrested today for allegedly disposing of gasoline by pouring it down the drain at his business. Robert Cote, 39, of 12 Social Drive in Warwick, was arrested by DEM Officers at his place of business and arraigned before Judge Walter Gorman in 6th Division District Court in Warwick. He was charged with a single count of unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste. Cote entered no plea, as typically occurs in felony cases. He was released on $5,000 personal recognizance and faces an arraignment in Superior Court on August 14. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. The RI Attorney General's Office will be prosecuting the case.

    According to Sr. Agent Giusto Iannelli, of DEM's Office of Criminal Investigation, the Warwick Fire Department was called to Cote's business, the Pro Divers Shop at 2442 West Shore Road, on April 30 after a neighbor in an adjacent strip mall heard an explosion and observed smoke coming from the dive shop. The fire department responded and extinguished the fire, but an officer at the scene noticed a heavy smell of gasoline coming from the facility. Cote admitted to placing a container with less than a gallon of gasoline in a sink to see if the gasoline was contaminated. Cote claimed that the fumes from the gasoline were ignited by a spark from a hot water heater.

    The fire officer at the scene called DEM to determine if there was a remaining hazard. John Leo, a Sanitary Engineer with DEM's Emergency Response Unit, responded and found that a considerable amount of gasoline was present in the septic system. Leo determined that the situation constituted a threat to public safety and the environment, and he immediately called CYN Environmental to come to pump out the septic system.

    Subsequent lab tests indicated that there was at least 20 and perhaps as much as 30 gallons of gasoline in the septic system, enough to pose a significant danger of a major explosion. Leo noted that if the fumes had backed up overnight in the pipes and vents associated with the septic system, the result could have been disastrous.

    In addition to today's arrest, DEM officers, assisted by officers from the Warwick Police Department, executed a search warrant and removed evidence from the scene.

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 Report this

  • Thecaptain

    SteveD, aka Hemi-Roid

    Clearly your public school education has failed you due to your obvious lack of ability to perform the simplest of research on any topic. You use that lack of education to try to spin things and not tell the entire story. Had you done any research you would have seen this:


    WARWICK BEACON, Thursday, December 17, 1998 Pg. 13

    Cote cleared in gas-dumping charge

    Robert Cote, the owner of Pro-divers, Inc. on 2442 West Shore Rd., has been cleared of charges that he dumped 30 gallons of gasoline into his septic tank.

    A statewide grand jury ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Cote for the alleged crime. On April 30 this year, a fire started in a sink at the shop. Cote said he was outside tying to get a small boat to start and he suspected that there was water in the gasoline. Cote said he took a small container of the fuel into his shop to investigate, and upon walking in saw that he had a customer. He placed the container in a sink near a hot water tank.

    Cote said the tank has a pilot light, and that must have been what ignited the fuel in the sink. Cote said he and two customers were able to put the fire out.

    “We put the fire out. It took about 30 seconds”, Cote stated.

    Then the fire department arrived. An inspector said he smelled gasoline, and the Department of Environmental Management was called in.

    “The only damage that occurred was when the DEM came in with a Sawzall,” Cote said. The DEM ripped out the pipes that they thought could be used as evidence against Cote to prove he had dumped up to 30 gallons of gasoline down his drain.

    Cote noted that the boat he was working on could not carry 30 gallons of gasoline, and also that 30 gallons of gasoline would weigh about 260 pounds – more weight than he could easily carry back to his shop.

    Now, why wasn’t I charged Steve?

    1. Cyn environmental pumped the cesspool by demand of the WFD. Samples were sent to several labs for analysis including DEM and EPA. Results – NO EVIDENCE OF HYDROCARBONS OR PETROLEUM DISTILLATES IN PLUMBING OR CESSPOOL.

    2. The photos clearly showed a 3 gallon gas tank in the 12 foot inflatable boat and a melted small plastic container in the basin sink. Photos further indicated no damage to the surrounding plastic and walls.

    3. During the Grand Jury investigation several people testified how Cote was targeted by the WFD after being outspoken publicly on the WFD “Dive Team” lack of training which was directly attributable to the death of 4 Warwick residents.

    4. Testimony from the Health Dept. indicating false statements by the WFD stating that my compressor and breathing air system was contaminated from the flash fire and my license to sell compressed air should be rescinded. The air was tested by the Health Dept. and was found to be quality breathing air with zero contaminants.

    5. Then there was the small issue of DEM attempting to extort $15000 from my public liability policy.

    See Steve, there is an old saying: If you keep your mouth shut one can only assume you are a moron. As soon as you open it, you remove all doubt. You continue to give us examples of that proverb.

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 Report this

  • Thecaptain

    And why this has anything to do with kids playing on a contaminated ball field next to aircraft is beyond me and only furthers the evidence that you are an imbecile.

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 Report this

  • HerbTokerman

    While it's no doubt a bad idea to be having kids play near high levels of airplane exhaust, i have no sympathy for people who willingly bought a house knowing it was next to an airport then they're complaining because they live next to an airport.

    No one forced you to buy a house in that area, you should have thought it through before committing to it.

    Saturday, October 4, 2014 Report this

  • Pmaloneyjr

    Here is a solution to the Warwick Firefighter Soccer Winslow Field relocation issue. The schools will be looking at consolidating, rather than relocate the fields next to the airport, have the city work with the schools to find a school area that can accommodate the soccer fields and parking for families. The city (possibly in exchange for school consolidation where appropriate) and RIAC can pay for modifying a current school playing fields to accommodate the soccer fields.

    It could be a win/win/win for everyone. The players are, for the most part, are students in Warwick schools. They might enjoying playing at their schools.

    It is an opportunity for the city and schools to work together to solve a problem, and RIAC will have moved the fields without objection to the quality of air.

    There is a large area behind Aldrich, Vets fields are huge, Tollgate and Winman Complex is large. The Administration Building (Greene School next to Gorton) has a large field. I am sure there is a solution if the city works with the schools to find it.

    We can even have the younger players at one school area and the older kids play at a different place if it is an issue of room or parking. I know the soccer organization schedules games according to age groups.

    I was a soccer coach and assistant coach for a few years and my kids played for a few years. I was always concerned about being so close to the airport.

    For goodness sake, Mayor Avedisian (with the help of his friend, Jack Reed) is always talking about the about of Protected Open Space he has secured for Warwick. Why can't we use some for these families? Have RIAC knock some trees down in City Park or create a space at Rocky Point for the children to play there.

    These are options I haven't heard anyone talk about. Do NOT risk the health of these children and their families for a quick fix to the problem.

    Warwick City Council and the Mayor gave up the fight to move forward, RIAC is willing to help with the relocation. If we settle for the park next to the Airport we will have to fight in 10 years to have it moved again and risk the health of these kids. If you don't think it is a problem, look at the roof of each house in the path of the airport and tell me you think it is fine for the families to breath that air.

    For solutions to problems, sometimes we need to look outside of the box. We need the fields to be centralized for the families but I am sure a family won't mind driving 5-10 extra minutes if it means their child will stay healthy.

    I am running for City Council in Ward 1. Please vote for me on election day, November 4th. Thank you, Patrick Maloney Jr.

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 Report this

  • patientman

    PJ Jr. is the first person to answer that Rocky Point can be a place for the ball fields. Just get it done.

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 Report this

  • RoyDempsey

    Great comments Mr. Maloney. Who would think, a win for the schools, the people of Warwick and those on Lake Shore Drive. From what you have just put forth, it appears that there was little to no thought regarding the overall possibilities and the implications for what is possible. But then again, if you have the chief executive of this city say that he is "comfortable" with what is happening it is a good indication that the leader of this city is not only out of touch but lacks the vision to move us forward.

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 Report this

  • Hemi_Royed

    Hey Robbie, am not Steve D. Not enough evidence. A strong acid based cleaner will clear and neutralize any hydro-carbon. You cleaned the pipes... drano or any commercial cleaner will suffice. All Hydrocarbons in liquid form will float on water. Known as specific gravity, your gasoline evaporated. Not enough evidence. Your deranged.... and your history with the City goes back to when you failed to meet the bid specifications for the initial dive training for the Fire Department. So of course in your feeble world the WFD will never meet up to your deranged standards nor should they. You post your resume on here and yet a google search shows nothing published by you, thus the BS flag is thrown. Oh and weren't you on the simpleton radio show awhile back stating your residential termination here in Warwick? You were moving correct? Well being a man of your word...GET MOVING !

    Sunday, October 5, 2014 Report this


    I started this about who got the wood, CALM DOWN . But I did more fighting when linc was in office before all of this fighting started. Don,t worry Gino will save us. Guess what there was nobody there. Stay cool everbody things will get better things are in the works. sorry if I got anybody upset. its only wood like I said but like I said thigs are going to happen after the elect because we don,t have a real dem chairperson banging away . thank you people

    Monday, October 6, 2014 Report this