Rhode Island Intends to Keep Pressure on Controversial Waterfront Scrap Yard


Editor’s note: This May 24 letter was sent by Rhode Island Attorney Peter Neronha to those concerned about Rhode Island Recycled Metals’ illicit operations along the Providence River on Allens Avenue. It was edited slightly.

Dear Partners and Stakeholders,

Thank you for your continued concern regarding Rhode Island Recycled Metals (RIRM), and with the outsized impact that pollution related to industrial activity has had on communities historically subject to discrimination. I appreciate your continued advocacy and hard work on behalf of your community.

Please know that the Office continues to prioritize environmental justice in communities throughout the state in our enforcement efforts, and in particular, at and around the Port of Providence. With this letter, I am hoping to provide you with a clearer picture of the State’s efforts to date, as well as our view of the challenges and barriers to progress.

Over the past thirteen years, the State has invested a great deal of time mounting a concerted legal effort to bring the RIRM site into compliance with all environmental laws. Unfortunately, these efforts continue to this day, and we continue to have multiple meetings and court conferences each month related to RIRM’s (non)compliance with environmental law. Because of the court’s long involvement in this matter, much of the ongoing effort is not always immediately discernible to the interested public.

Technical problems and multi-jurisdictional permissions have often impeded progress, as has the intransigence of RIRM. There have always been two major problems at the site: (1) the presence of unauthorized vessels RIRM intended to scrap; and (2) the lack of a land remediation plan to restore necessary pollution and stormwater controls.

To this day, the Office’s efforts are focused on securing the removal of all unauthorized vessels and implementing a viable and effective land remediation plan.

While not complete, our collective enforcement efforts have resulted in substantial progress in compliance over the last four years. At the time of filing the original lawsuit, there had been at least four (4) sunken vessels at issue. Now, only a single vessel remains submerged, Tugboat 1. Tugboat 1’s removal has proved a technical challenge because the most environmentally friendly methods of disposal have not worked. Today, RIRM has a plan in place to remove Tugboat 1 and is waiting for final approval of its permit from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coastal Resources Management Council. Additionally, RIRM has finally commenced preparation of its land remediation plan.

Until this site is returned to full compliance, we will continue to evaluate all available legal options to secure the quickest and most complete compliance, and we will continue to do so, whether those entail continuing in the existing court proceedings or seeking a different forum for enforcement. And to those ends, we just recently petitioned the Court to impose standing fines of $500 per day for missed deadlines and to require RIRM to pre-fund the escrow account to a level sufficient to complete the remediation and removal of Tugboat 1.

This past week, we secured a Consent Order that requires weekly Special Master site visits, more detailed information on progress and site conditions in RIRM’s weekly reports, and a designated Compliance Officer to conduct onsite inspections, daily, on all days that the facility is operating, to ensure compliance with all Court Orders.

However, even with the accomplishment of these critical goals, we will remain extremely concerned about RIRM’s ability to behave as a responsible corporate citizen and adhere to state and federal environmental regulations. Accordingly, we will apply the strictest scrutiny to all of RIRM’s permitting applications going forward.

As I said at the outset, we share your concerns with the disproportionate impact of the Port and RIRM on their surrounding communities. While we continue to aggressively exercise the levers and tools we presently have at our disposal, we also continue to search for better strategies and solutions and look forward to continued discussions and partnership toward those ends.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or to the Chief of our Environmental and Energy Unit, Alison Hoffman, if you have any questions or wish to discuss these matters further.

Peter F. Neronha
Attorney General

To read about the state’s ongoing efforts to deal with this situation, click here.


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