Rhode Island Metals Buys 9-Acre Site Next to Its Allens Avenue Scrapyard
April 17, 2023
PROVIDENCE — The company behind one of the city’s controversial scrapyards is expanding its footprint.
Last month the owners of Rhode Island Recycled Metals (RIRM), a scrap processing facility that has made numerous headlines over the years for its environmental violations, bought an abutting 9.8-acre property next to its Allens Avenue site near the Port of Providence for $2.7 million, according to city records.
It’s a big addition to the business portfolio of company owners Ralph and Jared Sevinor, a father-son duo who, through a number of real estate holding companies, own a number of properties in the Allens Avenue area.
Their portfolio includes 288 Allens Ave., 434 Allens Ave., 444 Allens Ave., 355 Allens Ave., and 27 Warren Way, all of which are close to the neighborhoods of Washington Park and South Providence.
Richard Nicholson, an attorney who represents RIRM and its owners, said the purchase was part of a plan to build a new port facility on the site.
“We’re proposing to shut down the scrapyard,” Nicholson said in a phone interview with ecoRI News last week. Nicholson declined to comment on a timeline for the shutdown.
RIRM’s Allens Avenue operations have received increased criticism and scrutiny from state officials since the first one opened illegally in 2009 without the necessary permits. Save The Bay began raising the alarm in 2010, when then-executive director Jonathan Stone sent a letter to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management citing a number of complaints that showed a lack of pollution controls over oil, gas, and other fluids leaking into upper Narragansett Bay from cars crushed on the property.
The company was cited again in July 2014 for discharging runoff into the Providence River and failing to have permits for its metals operation.
The Allens Avenue property sits on top of a former brownfield site, leftover from its days in the 1980s when it housed a computer and electronics shredding operation. The land has tested positive for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), highly carcinogenic chemical compounds. Save The Bay has expressed concern that RIRM had disturbed the cap containing that contamination.
State regulators at DEM sent RIRM its first letter of noncompliance in 2011, but after several years of getting nowhere with getting the scrapyard to adhere to regulations, took its owners to court in early 2015.
State officials said the company had allowed old vessels, including a retired Soviet-era submarine and a submerged ferry, to decay in the water while awaiting demolition. An old tugboat was later found to have leaked oil into the Providence River.
According to the complaint filed in Rhode Island Superior Court, DEM alleged the company wasn’t complying with a previous agreement to build stormwater runoff controls. State officials at the time were asking the court to order RIRM cease its car-crushing operation and mandate the company install oil containment booms along the riverfront.
In 2016, Superior Court judge Michael Silverstein appointed attorney Richard Land as special master, to oversee the cleanup and remediation of the property both on land and in the water. In a recent email to ecoRI News, Land said the company since 2016 had installed and maintained controls for its waterfront and for soil piles stored onsite. Many of the vessels that were once decaying in the water have also been removed.
“There is one vessel remaining which we anticipate will be removed this year,” wrote Land.
The removal of the remaining vessel, the sunken tugboat, is currently awaiting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers before work can begin.
Once the tugboat is removed, RIRM is expected to proceed with the remaining remediation on its land-side property. The company submitted its initial plan, after a number of deadline extensions, to DEM last month, but the final schedule for complying with the plan still needs to be worked out between RIRM and state regulators.
Nicholson told ecoRI News his clients are being unfairly maligned. “RIRM started operating in 2009,” he said. “RIRM had all of its permit and licenses to operate there.”
He continued, “DEM and [the Coastal Resources Management Council] allowed RIRM to operate on that cap in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. When you look at the record at DEM, the environmental lobby pressured DEM and the governor to take a different approach.”