Senators Want Answers About Providence Gas Leak

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Three state senators want answers on the March 29 natural-gas leak on Allens Avenue. The incident closed Interstate 95 for several hours and released some 19 million cubic feet of natural gas and toxic pollutants.

Citing a recent ecoRI News article, Sen. Jeanine Calkin, D-Warwick, and Sen. Harold Metts and Sen. Ana Quezada, both Democrats who represent Providence, recently sent letters to the state Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) asking them to release information on the environmental and health impacts of the leak.

“Even if you believe the spill did not have a significant adverse effect on people or the environment, we are asking that you communicate your findings publicly very soon,” according to the May 24 letters.

The senators want details on any impacts to the South Providence and Washington Park neighborhoods. Both areas suffer from high asthma rates and other illnesses caused by air pollution from the nearby industrial waterfront.

“We feel there has been little information given to those who live or frequent the area about whether they should be concerned, whether they should be watching out for any particular adverse effects on their health or environment, and whether there is anything they should be doing to protect themselves,” according to the letters.

The senators requested that any information be released “publicly and soon.”

In response to an ecoRI News public records request for information related to the incident, the DOH said it had no documents to release. DEM sent an e-mail stating that about 2 gallons of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were released. DEM said it wasn't aware of any groundwater contamination from the late-March leak.

According to the state Public Utilities Commission, the cleanup and inspection for contamination is conducted by the owners of natural-gas infrastructure, which in this instance is Spectra Energy of Houston and National Grid, the the state’s primary natural-gas provider.

The leak occurred after construction was taking place along the high-pressure pipeline that feeds the nearby Manchester Street power plant. The natural gas is supplied from the Algonquin pipeline, a 1,129-mile transmission line that delivers fracked natural gas from New Jersey to Everett, Mass.

Spectra was acquired by Calgary-based Enbridge on Feb. 27.