2006-03-16 / Front Page

Disputed landfill closure to set standards for others in state

By Dotti Farrington

Dr. W. Michael Sullivan, director of the state Department of Environmental Management, last week said closure of the Jamestown landfill will break new ground.

"We are setting the standards with this one so it is immensely important to do it right," he said.

He made this statement during a March 10 telephone interview. The Jamestown landfill is the first of up to 200 Rhode Island landfills and contaminated sites identified for cleanup under supervision of the DEM.

Sullivan had attended the forum hosted March 5 by the North End Concerned Citizens when it was announced that pollution was found in four private water wells on properties abutting the old Jamestown landfill. The DEM chief said he attended the meeting "because there were umpteen e-mails to me imploring me to come to hear the other side of the story and because it is important to me to see and listen and try to understand all issues."

"There was nothing new in what I heard from their (the NECC) technical agents because they have given us presentations earlier. The people had concerns and their team had refinements of things that were new," Sullivan said.

He also said that "the town finally was getting results of well samples and they were all on board for the next step" of retesting the wells. He was referring to the reports that state-ordered tests found that the water in four out of 16 wells contained contaminants.

Wells were retested last week and officials were awaiting the new round of results.

Meanwhile, homeowners of the four properties with affected wells were told to not drink, cook, or bathe with the contaminated water.

Sullivan reported that he talked with Town Administrator Bruce Keiser at the March 5 forum, and the DEM director said Keiser is "helping to focus on what to do next."

"DEM is obligated by law... to assess the mission of the town" in overseeing the closure of the landfill, Sullivan noted.

The Jamestown Press last week reported that his staff had suggested that the state evaluation of the latest plans for the landfill, with the town highway barn construction, would be ready by midMarch. However, the staff said there was a misunderstanding about the timetable and more time was needed to analyze all aspects of the project.

Sullivan also said more time was needed to consider all that was necessary. "We are expending a lot of careful time, with as much staff as possible assessing the plan. We will do a good job and assure the safety within all things in our jurisdiction. We do not have a construction prohibition authority but we can offer direction on technical issues that need to be addressed. We do have the authority to describe what must happen if the Town Council chooses" to build the highway barn.

Sullivan pointed out that if landfill substances need to be excavated for construction purposes, they must be removed from the site. He also noted that water for the barn could not be piped through the landfill debris, as proposed, because that clearly was against the rules.

He said flows from the proposed barn's floor drains have to be defined in terms of how and where they would go, and there could be limits on how that would be allowed.

He could not yet project how long the review of the project will take, Sullivan said. It would be done as soon as possible, he added. As with all public programs, all people are privy to all the exchanges, he said.

"The one thing I can tell you is that my staff is committed to a thoughtful, competent, and professional review of the town's proposal" as presented by GZA Environmental of Norwood,

Return to top