Metals Recycler Fouls Up Providence Waterfront

Video and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Recycled Metals (RIRM) declined to discuss why it continues to pollute the Providence River. “Sorry, I can’t give you more. It’s with the attorneys right now,” said Ed Sciaba Jr., RIRM's general manager.

The 7-acre scrap-metal processing facility on Allens Avenue sits atop a former Superfund site that was contaminated during the 1980s by a computer and electronics shredding company. Since it began operating in 2009, RIRM has been issued multiple warnings and violations by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) for disturbing the soil and failing to manage runoff.

The company, which lists Antonio C. Ramos as owner, ignored a 2013 agreement that requires the removal of vessels and instead has taken new vessels for salvage. RIRM also has failed to install oil-containment booms around the vessels and build a stormwater-containment system for its onshore operation.

DEM declined to discuss specifics of its ongoing enforcement efforts. But David Chopy, DEM's chief of compliance and inspection, explained that the agency is in the process of getting RIRM to comply with the 2013 agreement. If that fails, the matter will go to Superior Court, he said.

Meanwhile, RIRM has opened a second scrap-metal processing facility on Allens Avenue without proper permits or a stormwater management plan.

In July, DEM issued a notice to RIRM for violations at its new facility, 278 Allens Ave. The violations specify discharging runoff into the Providence River and for failing to have permits for its metals operation.

Chopy said RIRM is one of three metals salvage yards to open for business on the waterfront in recent years.

"They just kind of opened up and didn’t get the permits that were required," Chopy said.

Syms Metal Management, also on Allens Avenue, has since obtained the necessary permits, according to DEM. Schnitzer Steel on Fields Point has an outdated stormwater compliance plan.

Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay, said it's "outrageous" that RIRM has gone five years without proper permits. Meanwhile, he said, hazardous materials such as PCBs are being unearthed and likely running into Narragansett Bay.

Stone has questioned why DEM ever let the company, and other salvage yards, open for business without permits and why the agency hasn't been more assertive in enforcing its rules. “We’re not happy about it,” he said.