Contaminants Found in Soil Samples Taken Along Proposed Newport Bike Path


Construction of the proposed rail-corridor bike path is tentatively expected to start in spring 2021 as part of phase two of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s Pell Bridge project realignment. (Bike Newport)

Planning work for The First Mile bike path on the rail corridor that is set to link the North End of Newport, R.I., to the city’s downtown is underway. A webinar was held last month to go over the results of a limited site investigation into the level of soil contamination.

Conducted by VHB, a civil engineering consulting and design firm, in November and December 2018, the results of the soil sampling of the bike path area were consistent with the rest of the land involved in the Pell Bridge realignment project and the general redevelopment of the North End.

“The limited site investigation consisted of 12 borings, with the purpose to collect soil samples and groundwater samples from wells,” Fred Bevans, an environmental scientist at VHB, said during the April 29 virtual meeting. “Based on our findings, there was no groundwater contamination, but we did have some commonly found compounds in the soil that were in exceedance of the DEM direct exposure criteria for both residential and industrial and commercial standards.”

The compounds found above Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) standards included semi-volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals such as arsenic and lead, and some total petroleum hydrocarbons.

Bevans noted that these findings were similar to those found in the entirety of the North End improvement project area.

“Oftentimes, these compounds are things that are found in areas associated with commercial activities or industrial activities,” he said, “and they are often associated with urban fill which can be imported in the building of roadways.”

To move the bike path construction forward, which is estimated to start in spring 2021 as part of phase two of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s Pell Bridge project realignment, VHB is recommending the removal of contaminated dirt and a cap being installed.

“The remedy for this project that we will likely be proposing … would be a combination of contaminated soil disposal, which would occur during the reconstruction process, and a capping of the site, which would basically consist of covering the site with either a foot of clean fill over a geotextile fabric or two feet of clean fill,” Bevans said.

Among the concerns raised by the public were fears that digging up the contaminated soil might be a danger to the nearby community.

“It’s a very good question, and I don’t want to come across as minimizing anyone’s health concerns, but what most of the compounds of concern that we’re talking about, they’re the types of materials that you would need to be exposed to regularly for a long amount of time to experience any adverse health effects,” said Peter Grivers, a VHB project manager. “With that said, we don’t want any dust with these contaminants blowing around and we don’t want any of it running off with rain water, so those factors will be in the remedial action work plan.”


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