Public Health & Recreation

Construction Firm, Senior Employee Charged with Illegally Dumping Contaminated Fill

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Much of the contaminated fill was dumped in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — An out-of-state construction firm and a former employee have been charged with the illegal dumping of thousands of tons of contaminated fill at project sites during the construction of the Route 6/10 Interchange project.

The defendants allegedly authorized the transport of about 1,114 tons of contaminated soil from a Pawtucket/Central Falls site and another 3,460 tons of contaminated stone from a Boston site to the 6/10 project site. Much of it ended up dumped in the Olneyville neighborhood.

Attorney General Peter Neronha announced the charges Jan. 18.

Barletta Heavy Division Inc. has been charged with two counts of illegal disposal of solid waste, one count of operating a solid waste management facility without a license, and one count of providing a false document to a public official. Barletta is a Canton, Mass.-based construction firm overseeing the ongoing $247 million Route 6/10 Interchange highway construction project that began in 2018.

Dennis Ferreira, 62, of Holliston, Mass., a former senior employee of Barletta, has been charged with two counts of illegal disposal of solid waste, one count of operating a solid waste management facility without a license, and one count of providing a false document to a public official.

The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 1 in Providence County Superior Court.

“Mr. Ferreira and Barletta used the 6/10 site as an environmental dumping ground, and not only for Rhode Island waste. Worse yet, they made Rhode Island a dumping ground for Massachusetts waste,” Neronha said when the charges were announced. “Their actions come at the expense of Rhode Islander’s public health and their environment. Rhode Island’s environmental and public health laws exist for a reason.”

In a three-page statement released shortly after the charges were announced, Barletta denied the allegations.

“Barletta’s work on this project did not violate any criminal laws and the charges are baseless, both legally and factually,” according to the company’s statement. “Barletta intends to fight these charges vigorously and is confident that it will prevail and restore its impeccable reputation once the facts are fully and accurately presented in court.”

The statement also noted that if “any soil and stone was delivered to the Route 6-10 highway project from Massachusetts or the Pawtucket-Central Falls train station, those deliveries were overseen and coordinated solely by Barletta’s former employee, Dennis Ferreira, without the knowledge or authorization of Barletta.”

In July 2020, the defendants allegedly authorized the disposal of more than 4,500 tons of stone and soil contaminated with hazardous materials at the Route 6/10 Interchange construction project.
At that time, Ferreira was the superintendent of the Route 6/10 Interchange project and possessed broad authority, including the acquisition of material to be used on the site, according to the attorney general’s office.

Neronha noted Barletta is required to analyze any fill brought to the 6/10 project site for contaminants and must certify any fill be suitable for use.

It is alleged the defendants sourced known contaminated fill from the site of the Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station on the border of Pawtucket and Central Falls, and from a Barletta materials stockpile in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. The site of the Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station has been used as a rail yard for nearly 150 years and the presence of soil contaminants, including arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, have been previously confirmed. At the Jamaica Plain site, Barletta stockpiled contaminated stone generated from railbed replacement work it conducted on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority B and C Green lines.

It’s also alleged that in late July 2020, state officials with DEM and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) asked Ferreira for an environmental certification for the transported stone, and he provided an environmental testing report with analysis from another site, to hide the fact that the 6/10 site stone was contaminated, according to the charges.

The illegal dumping wasn’t originally made public by RIDOT, which is overseeing the project, but by heavy-equipment operators who accused Barletta of using hazardous material as fill and who complained of excessive dust at worksites throughout the extensive construction site.

When their pleas for help were not addressed by either the developer or state agencies — even though RIDOT was aware of the problems associated with the trucked-in fill — the union for the heavy-equipment operators launched its own investigation. A test paid for by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 57 found the material contained two times the acceptable levels of carcinogenic aromatic hydrocarbons and four times the acceptable levels of benzo(a)pyrene, another carcinogen.

RIDOT eventually ordered Barletta to remove a 2,500-cubic-yard pile next to a ramp for Plainfield Pike, another pile of about 1,600 cubic yards worth of hazardous fill, and any other toxic material dumped at the construction site.

After the contractor failed to act in a timely manner, RIDOT quietly issued a formal notice Aug. 3, 2020, to the company ordering the toxic piles be removed by Aug. 17.

The deadline passed without any action taken. RIDOT’s director even downplayed the toxicity of the material during a Sept. 10 WPRO radio interview, saying the material that had been dumped near Olneyville homes was clean.

By the end of 2020, some six months after the contaminated fill was dumped on Olneyville, the contaminated material was finally removed from a community where 64% of the population is Latino and 11% is Black.

Separately, on Dec. 14 of last year, Ferreira plead guilty in federal court to three counts of making a false statement in connection with a federally funded highway project. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 16. Barletta agreed to pay $1.5 million to the federal government.

The recent local charges stem from an investigation led by the office of the attorney general, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Rhode Island, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

The prosecution of the state case is being led by assistant attorneys general John Moreira and Peter Roklan and by DEM’s Sheila Paquette.

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  1. Good for the operating engineers Dennis should have been done long ago jobs he ran were unsafe and he was a nasty person to all.

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