Waterfront Metals Recycler Accused of Polluting Bay

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — A metal recycler on the city's waterfront has drawn the ire of Save The Bay.

The environmental group has "grave concerns" about persistent violations of the federal Clean Water Act by Rhode Island Recycled Metals, 434 Allens Ave. Polluted rainwater from scrap metal dumps directly into the Providence River and surrounding neighborhood, according to Save The Bay.

The facility sits atop a capped brownfield site.

In a Nov. 21 letter sent to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), Save The Bay director Jonathan Stone urged both agencies to immediately issue cease-and-desist orders "to bring this facility into full compliance with the law and all applicable permits."

Edward Schiaba, general manager of Rhode Island Recycled Metals, said he's working with DEM and CRMC to build a new stormwater management system. "We've been in compliance with regulations and all the concerns of DEM and Rhode Island authorities," he said.

In his letter, Stone cited several complaints within the past year that show a lack of pollution controls over oil, gas and other fluids leaking from cars that are crushed at the facility. While observing operations by boat from the Providence River, Save The Bay staff witnessed violations and a lack of runoff containment during heavy rain storms in September and October, according to the letter.

In June 2010, DEM issued a notice of intent to enforce violations and sent a letter of noncompliance on Aug. 17, 2011. In April 2011, CRMC issued the company a cease-and-desist order for failing to use a containment boom required for demolition and removal of the Russian submarine Juliet.

The Coast Guard also has investigated that site.

Stone is also concerned that the protective surface covering the brownfield has been damaged. In the 18 months since the first violation was reported nothing has been done to fix the problems, he said. "I think one of the interesting questions is why DEM and CRMC haven't enforced their own permits? I don't have an answer to that."

Save The Bay is calling for construction of a drainage system, a concrete pad for heavy equipment, and a fully enclosed plastic cover to control dust and keep rain off the scrap piles. The environmental group also expressed concern about the lack of public information about a temporary dredging permit for dismantling the aforementioned submarine that has "mushroomed" into other uses.

"The scrap metals recycling industry is growing rapidly along the Providence waterfront — and with it a serious and ongoing threat to the Providence River," Stone wrote in the letter. A lack of enforcement and regulation "sets bad precedent and sends a message to other businesses on the water that's it's OK to illegally discharge in Rhode Island."