The Portsmouth Town Council sent a formal order to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Monday night: stop AP Enterprises from dumping any more soil at the former town landfill until questions are answered.
The council voted 7-0 to have DEM stop AP Enterprises, a private company which owns the land in question, from conducting any further dumping at the site. The audience stood and applauded this action by the council.
"I move to request DEM to stop AP Enterprises from dumping anymore dirt at the former Portsmouth landfill until such time that the BUD is being complied with and our questions and concerns are answered," said Councilor Judi Staven, who read the motion.
AP Enterprises, the owner of this land at the corner of Park and Mason Avenues, received approval for a BUD or Beneficial Use Determination from DEM last year.
However, in December, AP Enterprises submitted a request to modify an aspect of a prior DEM approval in order to accept sub-grade capping materials with elevated levels of .
Island Park residents held a rally this past Saturday to protest the request. A video on the rally can be found .
Councilors are now questioning if AP Enterprises is in compliance with the BUD. There were no representatives from AP Enterprises or DEM at the meeting Monday night.
“Why aren’t they here?” asked Laura Rogers during the meeting.
Residents stood and applauded the council following the vote.
Town Administrator Robert Driscoll said he would bring the request to DEM's Mark Dennen "first thing in the morning," as well as seek answers to the following questions:
- Are the trucks (bringing in soil) being properly covered and have proper signs?
- Is dirt being blown around?
- What was used in Middletown as shaping material for their landfill?
- Is AP Enterprises following the BUD and providing fencing around the site, as well as air sampling?
- Who is the site safety officer?
- Driscoll also said he would contact the DEM director and Save the Bay to find out what steps they are taking with this issue.
- Driscoll will also contact the attorney for AP Enterprises and seek financial information to see if "there is some big windfall being made here."
- He will also check for any possible erosion at the site.
Councilor Keith Hamilton also requested that Driscoll ask DEM to test for any metals in the site's soil, including lead.
When asked, after the meeting, what authority the town had over a state agency, Driscoll said he didn't know.
Council Approves Resolution Limiting Arsenic Levels
The council also voted unanimously to approve a resolution, which "urges DEM" to not raise the current limit of acceptable, naturally-occurring arsenic above 7 parts per million (ppm).
According to the resolution, the property owner or AP Enterprises is seeking a maximum arsenic concentration of 40 mg/Kg. The current DEM standard is 7 mg/Kg.
The last section of the resolution reads, "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The Portsmouth Town Council hereby urges the RI DEM to reconsider and not raise the current limit of 7 mg/Kg to 40 mg/Kg, (nor any above 7 ppm) as this increased elevation could potentially have a negative impact on the health and welfare of the citizens in the town of Portsmouth and potentially other citizens of the State of Rhode Island should this be allowed on other potential sites in the State."
A copy of the complete resolution is available at right.
The audience gave a standing ovation following Councilor Liz Pedro's reading of this resolution. A copy of the resolution will be forwarded to all neighboring communities, including Tiverton and Middletown.
Prior to the vote, Island Park resident Andrew Kelly presented a document to the town clerk and council. The document described a Newport site, where arsenic levels were reported to be at 20-40 ppm, he said.
Kelly asked the council to reconsider their motion, but was denied.