The Environmental Protection Agency bills it as the world's most aggressive hazardous waste cleanup program. Its trust fund is more than $13 billion. More than 1,400 sites nationwide benefit from it.
It's Superfund, which helps the EPA to investigate and revitalize waste sites around the country.
Among Superfund sites, the EPA has established a list of properties eligible for extensive cleanup. These sites are on the National Priority List for attention. Properties are added to the list only after being ranked according to the amount of danger they pose to the public. Sites that score high enough become national priorities.
Twelve of those priorities are in Rhode Island. What follows is an update on the progress of each site, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management:
Rose Hill Regional Landfill in South Kingstown:
A former municipal landfill is believed to contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which may be contaminating the ground water, soil, and wetlands in the area. Now, a proposed plan is being developed that selects a remedial alternative for site cleanup and will be released shortly after the study.
Newport Naval Education and Training Center:
Portions of this 1064-acre site have been used as a refueling depot for the U.S. Navy and as a waste dump for domestic refuse, acids, solvents, paint, waste oil, and oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Officials are now operating a system to pump and treat the ground water at one of the areas of concern and have constructed a cap at another.
Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in North Kingstown:
Fifteen hazardous waste sites are now being investigated, containing contaminants like heavy metals, PCBs, sludge and fuel oil. A record of decision was signed last year that selected a remedial alternative for this site that called for the installation of an impermeable cap and long-term monitoring.
Davis GSR Landfill in Smithfield:
This 58-acre site is a former solid waste dump. About 4,700 people live in a three-mile radius of the site and use private well water. Consistent with the record of decision, and pursuant to concerns by local residents, at this time a residential well monitoring plan is being formulated to ensure that the remedy is still protective of human health and the environment.
Central Landfill in Johnston:
The state's largest landfill, owned by the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., was contaminated by an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous chemicals dumped there in 1978 and 1979. In 1990, the Rhode Island Solid Waste Management Corp., in conjunction with DEM and the town of Johnston completed a project to provide public drinking water to area residents. The design for the landfill cap was completed in 1997 and capping of the landfill is expected to take several years to complete.
Stamina Mills in North Smithfield:
This five-acre site includes two areas of concern. The first is impacted soil from a large spill of the suspected carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE) in 1969 and the second is an on-site landfill. A soil vapor extraction system has been installed at the site to treat the TCE spill area and is currently operating. The capping of the landfill portion of the site is also under way.
Landfill & Resource Recovery in North Smithfield:
In 1985, the 28-acre landfill on the site was closed by the owner under a consent order with the state. Until 1979, an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste were accepted and disposed of there. Contaminants are threatening the ground water, air, surface water, and wetlands near the site. Landfill closure activities, including a landfill cap, have been completed, and now the site will be monitored for many years.
Western Sand and Gravel in Burrillville:
This 20-acre sand and gravel quarry was contaminated by the dumping of liquid wastes, which penetrated the soil and contaminated the ground water. Construction of a permanent water line to those homes has been completed and a landfill cap has been installed on the former disposal area. Officials will continue to monitor the site for many years.
Picillo Pig Farm in Coventry:
During the 1980s the EPA and DEM removed about 10,000 drums of waste and 7,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from a portion of this former 100-acre pig farm. A record of decision was signed in September of 1993. The EPA and DEM reached a negotiated settlement with a group comprised of 10 companies to conduct cleanup and pay some of the costs. A removal of action of PCB contaminated soils is continuing and will be completed in October. The design of the soil and ground water cleanup system is substantially completed and should be constructed in the spring of 1999.
Davis Liquid Waste Site in Smithfield:
This 15-acre hazardous waste dump was put on the National Priorities List in 1983 and engineers are still designing the cleanup systems for the soil and groundwater. A waterline to serve residents affected or potentially affected by the dump site was completed earlier this year. In the past two years, more than 1,000 drums of hazardous wastes have been removed from the site as part of the soil remedy. The design of the soil cleanup system is nearing completion and treatment should begin next summer.
Peterson-Puritan Site in Cumberland and Lincoln:
This huge site along the Blackstone River was responsible for wiping out 45 percent of the public water wells in Lincoln in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A record of decision addressing restoration of the contaminated groundwater was signed in 1993. Cleanup activities have been underway for several years and the on-site treatment system remains in operation.
West Kingston Town Dump/URI Disposal Area:
The newest Rhode Island Superfund site, a 6.5 acre unregulated town dump was found to have commercial, industrial, residential, and institutional wastes. The 12-acre university dumping grounds contain buried lab equipment, machinery, closed drums and old tanks. Private wells near the site were found to be contaminated; three of them were closed. Now, the EPA and the state are negotiating with the responsible parties to clean up the site.