About 35 members of a newly-formed grassroots committee faced the Town Council Monday night with concerns about activities at the former in Island Park.
The Island Park Landfill Committee (IPLC), a private citizens’ committee, was introduced to the council by its spokesman, Larry Fitzmorris.
The former landfill is located at the corner of Park Avenue and Boyd’s Lane.
Last year, , the owner of the property, received final approvals of their closure plans for the town dump from the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) and the town of Portsmouth. AP Enterprises is now planning to recap this land, which once housed the town landfill.
However, in December 2010, AP Enterprise LLC submitted a request to modify an aspect of a prior DEM approval in order to accept sub-grade capping materials that have elevated levels of .
But, arsenic, which is naturally-occurring, was not the concern Monday evening.
The concern was an allegation that soils are being dumped at the Island Park location from an out-of-state construction site. These soils may contain high levels of heavy metals and toxins, according to this new committee.
Gary Hahn of 65 Walnut St., a member of IPLC, testified that on Feb. 10, he followed a dump truck from the Island Park site to Fairhaven, MA.
At the Fairhaven location, stated Hahn, the dump truck was reloaded with soil from what appeared to be the site of a former gas station. Hahn then followed the truck back to Island Park, where the dirt was dumped at the former landfill site.
Hahn also testified that he approached the driver to ask him about the Fairhaven site and was told that the underground gasoline tanks had been removed.
Hahn said the driver also stated that the Environmental Protection Agency told him to remove the dirt. Hahn further said he took five samples of the soil that had been dumped.
He told the Town Council that he had sent it to a lab to be tested and the results should be completed Wednesday, Feb. 16. Hahn also produced photographs, which he said verified these statements.
“This isn’t only wrong, it’s criminal," Hahn said. "How can they bring this contaminated soil from Massachusetts to Rhode Island? We need your (the Town Council’s) help."
Councilor James A. Seveney asked if a police cruiser should be sent to the site. “Something needs to be done,” he said.
Police Chief Lance Hebert took the stand to tell the council he would immediately take a written complaint from Hahn if he wished to file one. Hahn eventually refused, citing he was concerned about a lawsuit.
At one point, a motion to have the town council file a police report was brought up to a vote by Councilwoman Liz Pedro.
But, before that motion could be acted on, the council moved unanimously to go into an emergency executive session in order to be advised by Town Solicitor D'Andrea Donato Andre.
After about 10 minutes, the council returned and voted not to file a police report.
At the urging of Keith Hamilton, the council also voted unanimously to ask the town administrator to contact the zoning official and ask him to visit the site under the “Sediment and Erosion Law.”
Chief Hebert also stated that, absent of any formal police report, he will still make notifications to various governmental agencies Tuesday morning. But, he added further action may be needed.
“I’m going to make sure this is looked into, but statements will eventually need to be taken,” he said.
State Rep. John G. Edwards was asked by the council to call the DEM in the morning to follow up. He agreed he would.
When the issue of a lawsuit came up, Councilwoman Judi Staven took a firm stand. ”We are going to get sued no matter what. Let’s get sued sticking up for Island Park,” she said.
In a final 4-3 vote, the council chose to not send a letter to DEM. The letter would have stated that the town council was opposing raising the limits of arsenic to 40 points per million (ppm).
AP Enterprises is seeking to exceed the permitted arsenic levels. For more on this request, view the related story by clicking .
At that, many in the crowd yelled out in objection.