Another Salvage Yard Considered for Allens Avenue
September 23, 2019
PROVIDENCE — Another polluting business is looking to open in the industrial area along Allens Avenue and neighbors are prepared to resist the project.
Owners of the property, on Thurbers Avenue between Interstate 95 and Allens Avenue, recently met with Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) officials to discuss permits for a construction and debris demolition (C&D) facility — basically a salvage yard that dismantles and separates wood, metal, and sheetrock, a process that produces dust, odors, and polluted runoff.
Trucks, another source of neighborhood pollution, would deliver the debris to the facility, where it would be sorted and shipped out on rail cars for disposal in western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
If the former TLA/Pond View C&D facility in East Providence is any indication, the proposed facility would likely worsen the pollution in the South Providence and Washington Park neighborhoods, two environmental justice communities. The predominately low-income areas have some of the highest asthma rates in the state and in New England, especially for children.
For more than a decade, TLA/Pond View, now called Railside Environmental Services LLC, drew complaints from residents in the Rumford neighborhood over dust, noise, and noxious odors. DEM fought protracted legal battles to close or regulate the East Providence C&D facility.
The proposed business owned by 487 Allens Ave. LLC of Everett, Mass., is expected to process up to 2,500 tons of debris daily. It’s likely to garner opposition from neighbors over pollution and proximity to the Meeting Street School and the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex.
“It’s disgusting and disappointing that more pollution-causing industries are being allowed to work in a family neighborhood,” said community activist and Washington Park resident Monica Huertas, who is running for the Ward 10 seat on the Providence City Council. “The community will fight this and any other projects that harm our children.”
The legal advocacy group Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is concerned about health risks from toxic dust. CLF met with a neighborhood association about the proposal and members are alarmed by the prospect of another polluting business worsening an already unhealthy area.
CLF is also suing the Shell terminal on Allens Avenue for failing to protect oil and gas tanks from flooding and other impacts of the climate crisis.
CLF staff attorney Kevin Burdis noted that key details of the proposed C&D project are outstanding. As of press time, no applications have been filed with the city.
“The devil is certainly in those details and we’re certainly going to be paying attention to it,” Burdis said.
What is known is that a portion of the property is owned by the city. During an Aug. 8 meeting with DEM, the owners said they intend to tear down two buildings at the site and replace them with a larger one that covers about an acre. Much of the operations would take place inside this new structure, according to the owners.
Railroad tracks would be installed to move material by gondola cars. Each car holds 100 tons of shredded C&D material. A scale and tipping floor would be in the enclosed processing area.
During last month’s meeting, DEM inquired about the impact of additional trucks on traffic along I-95. Restrictions on stormwater discharge and the need for an onsite leachate collection system also were addressed.
DEM explained to the developers that the site is next to an environmental justice area and therefore the permitting process will require workshops, hearings, and public notices. The area will also be under scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency because of the high asthma rate among residents. A pollution discharge elimination system would be required because of the property’s contaminated soil. The building and pavement would serve as a cap on the dirt. An air pollution permit and a solid waste transfer/construction and demolition debris facility license are needed.
DEM said it expected an application from the developer this month and the application process would last 90 days. In a Sept. 5 letter, DEM suggested that project developers install “a green or solar roof.”