Public Health & Recreation

Judge Rules Case Against 6/10 Contractor’s Alleged Dumping of Contaminated Fill Can Continue


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

PROVIDENCE — A judge has ruled not to dismiss the state’s ongoing criminal case against Barletta Heavy Division Inc., the Massachusetts-based construction firm charged with illegally dumping contaminated fill during the construction of the Route 6/10 Interchange, and a senior Barletta employee.

At a Feb. 2 hearing in Providence Superior Court, Justice Maureen Keough ruled in favor of the state, rejecting the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.

The defendants had filed their motion to dismiss by claiming the state lacked sufficient probable cause.

“As alleged in the information, the defendants used the 6/10 site as an environmental dumping ground, and worse yet, they made Rhode Island a dumping ground for Massachusetts waste,” Attorney General Peter Neronha said. “The alleged actions of the defendants come at the expense of Rhode Islanders’ public health and their environment.”

The case is next scheduled for a pretrial conference Feb. 12.

On Jan. 18, 2023, Neronha charged the Canton-based company and former employee Dennis Ferreira with illegally dumping thousands of tons of contaminated fill at project sites in Providence during construction of the Route 6/10 Connector. Much of the hazardous fill ended up dumped in the city’s Olneyville neighborhood.

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.

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. Barletta is overseeing the ongoing $247 million Route 6/10 highway construction project that began in 2018.

In a three-page statement released shortly after the charges were announced, Barletta denied the allegations. The company also put any blame at the feet of Ferreira, noting 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.”

Ferreira, 63, of Holliston, Mass., 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.

Separately, on Dec. 14, 2022, Ferreira pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of making a false statement in connection with a federally funded highway project. He was sentenced to one year probation and ordered to pay a $40,000 fine. Additionally, Barletta agreed to pay $1.5 million to the federal government.

The illegal dumping wasn’t originally made public by the state Department of Transportation, which hired Barletta to oversee 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 allegedly 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 on Aug. 3, 2020, ordering Barletta to remove the toxic piles by Aug. 17.

The deadline passed without any action taken. RIDOT director Peter Alviti 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.

The state, in December, awarded Barletta the no-bid contract to fix the Interstate 195 Washington Bridge that connects East Providence to Providence.

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