Reports Kick off Busy Week for Burrillville Power Plant

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — The weeklong run of power-plant-related events was supposed to begin with another public hearing at the high school on July 11. Instead, it started with two reports on the proposed energy facility from state agencies.

The first was a draft advisory opinion from the state Department of Health (DOH) that offered no decisive stance on the nearly 1,000-megawatt gas-and-oil Clear River Energy Center (CREC).

The report stated that the added high-voltage power lines will not be harmful to humans. Noise from the power plant, it said, should be managed by noise-reduction methods, such as soundproofing homes. Contaminated well water, polluted by gasoline from an underground storage tank at a gas station in the village of Pascoag, can be used to cool the plant, as long as added safeguards are included to protect spillage and contamination of private wells near Wallum Lake and Zambarano Hospital.

“While groundwater withdrawals from the MTBE-contaminated wells for process water are not a health concern at this time, these wells may not be used to provide water to the plant’s offices,” according to the DOH report.

DOH passed judgment on the health impacts of air pollution from power-plant emissions to the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM). DEM is expected to issues its findings, including those related to asthma risks, some time before Sept. 9.

The 35-page DOH report recommended improved storage for ammonia and compressed hydrogen at the power plant. It also avoided recommendations related to climate change. The report only states that it supports the provisions of the climate-reduction goals in the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014.

DOH is scheduled to host a public hearing Aug. 9 at Burrillville High School.

A second notice issued by the state Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission also gave the power plant a pass. The one-page letter said the $700 million project will have no impact on archeological and historic structures. A June 28 letter explained that an archeological survey of the proposed site found several “artifact scatters” from Native Americans but that the Iron Mine Brook Dune Site wasn't considered a significant cultural resource. Remnants of a 19th-century structure location was deemed a potentially significant cultural resource but was expected to be unharmed by the construction of the power plant.

“Unless project impacts change, we have no objections to the project,” wrote Edward Sanderson, the commission's director.

On July 12, the Burrillville Zoning Board of Review is expected to consider several zoning requests from the Clear River Energy Center, such as whether the project complies with the site’s zoning designation and whether a zoning variance should be granted. On July 13, the Town Council is expected to address a correspondence from Spectra Energy, the Houston-based owner of the major pipeline compressor station located next to the site of the CREC.

A three-day march to protest the power plant begins July 16 at the Statehouse. On July 18, marchers, led by the FANG Collective and Burrillville Against Spectra Energy, will end the protest with a ceremony at the site of the contaminated MTBE spill in the village of Pascoag, before heading to Burrillville High School, where Gov. Gina Raimondo will hold a public meeting on the power plant from 6-9 p.m.