Court Rejects East Providence Recycler’s Case

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The waterfront recycler that has stymied closure efforts by the city and has been called a neighborhood health threat by residents recently was issued a defeat in court.

On Dec. 15, Superior Court Judge Richard Licht denied an appeal of the state’s revocation of a registration for Railside Environmental Services LLC (RES), formally known as TLA/Pond View.

In October 2013, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) approved a registration for RES that allowed the recycler to process up to 50 tons of construction and demolition (C&D) debris daily. According to DEM, processing this volume of waste didn’t require public vetting.

Public outcry, however, prompted the General Assembly to amend the Refuse Disposal Act to specifically address the problems caused by RES. For several years, residents in the surrounding Rumford neighborhood complained of excessive truck traffic, noise, foul odors and dust polluting nearby homes and a school. The new regulations required the Dexter Road operation to obtain the more stringent C&D license and conduct its operations indoors.

RES was given three months to comply. Last January, the company’s application for a license was rejected by DEM for lacking, among other things, a letter of compliance from the mayor or the City Council. On Feb. 5, DEM issued a revocation of the company’s registration. RES appealed to Superior Court, where Licht denied the appeal.

RES also is dealing with another legal challenge, called a municipal zoning appeal, that is being argued in state Supreme Court. If granted, DEM said, RES would still need to submit a new application with public vetting and approval from the city.

“We’re not saying you cannot operate a C&D facility here. We’re saying you need a license to do it,” DEM attorney Susan Forcier said during the Dec. 15 court hearing. “We haven’t denied anything to them. We haven’t denied a license. We haven’t even had a complete application to review.”

RES’s attorney James Howe said the business has undergone “many attacks through the course of its history.” The action by the General Assembly and DEM, he said, was an unconstitutional taking of the company’s right to operate.

The business, Howe said, doesn’t need the new license because it was granted a zoning approval when the business began in 1998. A letter of compliance from the city is unnecessary as long as it continues to accept less than 50 tons of C&D debris daily.

Licht decided otherwise, saying the legislation didn’t provide grandfather provisions for existing C&D businesses. RES would nonetheless require compliance with local ordinances and a license would be necessary.

RES can file an appeal with the state Supreme Court to overturn Licht’s decision. Howe told ecoRI News that RES has yet to make a decision about an appeal.

Ken Foley, the owner of the property and president of RES, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

According to DEM, the company hasn’t accepted C&D debris since its registration was revoked Feb. 5.

DEM inspected the property Dec. 18. The agency will review the inspector’s report and determine whether the company is in compliance with the consent order. DEM said there is no timeframe for a decision on what actions will result from that inspection.