Providence Waterfront Metals Recycler Heads to Court

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The waterfront metals recycler accused of polluting the Providence River and upper Narragansett Bay is having its day in court.

A hearing is scheduled for April 7 in Superior Court for Rhode Island Recycled Metals LLC (RIRM), the operator of scrap-metal yards at 434 and 444 Allens Ave. Both sites opened without permits and have been cited for inadequate runoff control systems and improper operations. The facility at 444 Allens Ave. also has several vessels designated for demolition sitting offshore. The boats, including a former Soviet nuclear submarine and a sunken ferry, are in violation of environmental regulations, including spilling oil into the Providence River.

The hearing is the third since legal action was taken March 4. The compliant, filed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the attorney general, seeks to have the business cease activities that cause the oil leaks, as well as comply with stormwater control measures and settle its fines.

“These corporations failed to obtain the permits that were required to begin operations, ignored the law, and then did not comply with the agreement they reached with DEM to resolve their environmental violations,” DEM director Janet Coit wrote in a prepared statement.

So far, RIRM has agreed to stop bringing in vessels and can no longer cut up new boats or vehicles. The two facilities are only allowed to take in and truck out scrap metal. RIRM also has installed sediment control measures, according to DEM.

Oddly, the hearing process has been slowed by three relatives all named Ed Sciaba. Ed Sciaba Sr. and his grandson Ed Sciaba III have received legal notice in the court proceedings. Ed Sciaba Jr., however, the general manager of RIRM, has yet to be located and served notice.

For nearly five years, the environmental advocacy group Save The Bay has been urging DEM to address the problem.

The pollution began in 2009, when the business opened as a car-crushing yard and received authorization from the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to dismantle Juliet, the former Soviet nuclear submarine. Although CRMC insisted that the submarine be fully demolished by 2012, it currently sits partially dismantled while leaking oil and littering debris that looks like foam insulation. The business also has brought in five other vessels for scrap without authorization, according to officials.

In recent years, DEM has expressed concern that the company has disturbed the soil cap of the former Superfund site. The property became contaminated between 1979 and 1989 when it operated as a computer and electronics shredding facility.

DEM inspections have revealed that portions of the sites feature pools of suspect liquids and large ruts of mud threaten to send contaminated water and sediment into the river. A litany of inspections by DEM have also shown that both sites lack proper containment of runoff.

Save The Bay and DEM also are worried that RIRM may simply shut down operations and leave before cleaning the site.

“It’s a concern,” said David Chopy, DEM's chief of compliance and inspection.