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Video: Town Council Hires Attorney to Consult on DEM Decision, Recapping at Former Town Landfill

The Portsmouth Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to hire an attorney for consultation. The council is seeking advice for their next step in the ongoing recapping project at the former town landfill.

The Portsmouth Town Council will consult with an attorney over the Department of Environmental Management's (DEM) decision to permit increased levels of naturally-occurring arsenic at the former town landfill in Island Park.

The council voted 7-0 Monday to hire an attorney for a consultation. The council also voted to cap the cost of the consultation at $2,000.

“DEM is not following its own rules on this property,” said Councilor Judi Staven. “I think it’s time we talk to someone on what can we do.”

Members of the Island Park Landfill Committee spoke at Monday's council meeting at Town Hall for more than an hour and a half. They expressed concern and presented a number of questions to Town Administrator Robert Driscoll.

"Who is the site safety officer?" asked Laura Rogers. "...We're fighting for our health."

“I do not know the answer to that question,” Driscoll said. “...I don’t know why questions are coming my way. It’s a state project. You need to ask the state." 

“We need to know this stuff. Can the town hire a lawyer to find out this information,” Peter Roberts said.

The Island Park Landfill Committee has hired an environmental lawyer from Massachusetts to represent them.

"I don't think this is an issue between the town and AP," Staven said. "It's an issue between the town and DEM."

On Friday, March 11, DEM announced they would proceed with recapping the former town landfill despite , concerns and an from the town council.

"Following a thorough review of a proposal to modify an existing 'Beneficial Use Determination' for closing the Portsmouth town dump, the Department of Environmental Management has approved a plan that is protective of the environment and human health," according to the press release issued on March 11 by DEM. "The approval will allow for soils with elevated levels of naturally-occurring arsenic to be used as sub-grade fill beneath two feet of clean soil to bring the site to the correct elevations so that a permanent, protective cap can be installed."

DEM’s approval will allow AP Enterprises to accept soils containing naturally-occurring arsenic above the DEM Direct Exposure Criteria of 7 mg/kg, with an average arsenic level below 20 mg/kg and a maximum level of 40 mg/kg, to contour and grade this site.

The former landfill in the Island Park neighborhood was operated by the town for the disposal of waste from 1954 to 1974, and later purchased in 2003 by AP Enterprises. This private company and owner of the land, AP Enterprises, is now currently working to recap the former landfill at Park and Mason Avenues.

Also at the meeting, members of the Island Park Landfill Committee addressed the town council regarding a March 18 meeting with both Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Janet Coit, the newly-appointed DEM director.

The committee presented a letter to the governor. A copy of this letter is attached above.

"Neither the governor nor his staffers nor DEM were aware of the contents of the (town) resolution. It was included in the letter we sent to the governor," said Larry Fitzmorris, spokesperson for the committee. "Mrs. Coit mentioned she had seen it (the letter), but it was not clear she read it, nor did the people in the room…nor did they seem to be terribly concerned about it.”

To view more on this discussion, click on the video above.

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