Crane Barge Remains Stuck in Providence River

 A sunken crane barge has been sitting in the water for nearly a year. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

A sunken crane barge has been sitting in the water for nearly a year. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

Rhode Island Recycled Metals continues to expand its pollution empire

Video and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Deadlines have come and gone for the owner of a sunken crane to remove the eyesore from the Providence River. But judging by other derelict vessels along the waterfront and in the water, it seems unlikely the matter will be resolved anytime soon.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Providence harbormaster are negotiating with the owner, Mark J. Ginalski of East Providence, to remove the crane and barge it sits on. In a July 31 letter to Ginalski, DEM threatened to impose a $25,000 daily fine.

David Chopy, DEM’s chief of compliance and inspection, said he and harbormaster Sgt. Kenneth Vinacco have sent stern letters to Ginalski since the vessel sank last October.

“The barge is an obstacle to the proper use of the waters for commercial and recreational purpose by the city and its residents,” Vinacco wrote in a letter.

The barge, identified as MG Marine Barge, sits in about 15 feet of water next to Conley Wharf. Last October, DEM responded to a call that the barge was leaking oil. Ginalski was cited for violating five pollution laws and given 30 days to remove the barge and crane.

On Aug. 31, DEM issued a notice of intent letter to enforce the July 31 letter. Ginalski responded Aug. 6, saying he can’t afford to move his crane barge. Ginalski has a long criminal record and previously owned a tugboat that sank off East Providence in 2014.

According to an NBC 10 I-Team investigation, Ginalski has been arrested or charged 28 times.

“We have two goals. One is getting the barge out of the harbor. The other is by imposing a penalty whose size is to be determined, deterring polluters from leaving their messes to be cleaned up by others,” DEM spokesman Michael Healey said.

The stalled environmental mess illustrates the lingering waste and unchecked pollution along the city’s industrial waterfront.

 Rhode Island Recycled Metals on Allens Avenue sits on a contaminated brownfield and former Superfund site.

Rhode Island Recycled Metals on Allens Avenue sits on a contaminated brownfield and former Superfund site.

On a recent boat tour of the city’s working waterfront with Save The Bay, Mike Jarbeau, the Narragansett baykeeper, explained that the crane barge is one of many sunken vessels that have lingered for years in the upper Providence River despite promises they would be removed.

“It’s just another thing rotting away in the river,” Jarbeau said.

For nearly a decade, Rhode Island Recycled Metals has bedeviled enforcement efforts. Several dismembered vessels remain sunk or tethered to shore, while a a mandatory stormwater control systems is absent, allowing contaminated runoff from the car-crushing yard to flow into the harbor.

DEM, the Coastal Resources Management Council, and Coast Guard have all failed to enforce cease-and-desist orders or close the 6-acre scrap-metal yard, which sits on a contaminated brownfield site. Although some vessels have been removed, portions of at least six remain, including the Russian submarine Juliet, a sunken ferry, a sunken tugboat, and a sunken lobster boat.

In August 2016, a special master was appointed by Superior Court to oversee securing contaminants and to develop and implement a clean-up plan.

The Rhode Island Recycled Metals owner, Edward Sciaba, opened a second electronic waste collection facility down the street. Now a third facility operates nearby. All of them opened without obtaining the required permits or having a stormwater management plan.