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McNamara Seeks Pawtuxet River Flooding Plans

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] The Rhode Island State House is located at 82 Smith St. Providence.
The Rhode Island State House is located at 82 Smith St. Providence.
The Rhode Island State House is located at 82 Smith St. Providence. Rep. McNamara is seeking a DEM/EPA plan to deal with more frequent Pawtuxet River flooding.

Editor’s note: The following information was provided by the RI Legislative Press and Information Bureau.

STATE HOUSE — Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has asked the Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop plans for more frequent Pawtuxet River flooding and quick alerts on soil contaminants.

Of particular concern is an area in Cranston on the banks of the river that housed the Ciba-Geigy Chemical Company from 1954 to 1986, and is now the subject of an EPA corrective action plan under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

During the 2010 flooding of the Pawtuxet River, adjacent neighborhoods in both Warwick and Cranston were flooded. When the river receded, varying depths of sediment emitting noxious odors were left on neighborhood properties, prompting the Rhode Island Department of Health to recommended wearing N95 masks when removing or shoveling the substance. At the time, Representative McNamara purchased two cases of the masks to hand out to residents in the affected neighborhoods.

“More frequent flooding due to climate change will have a contributing effect on the threat that this site poses to human health and the environment,” said Representative McNamara. “The 2010 flood was described as a ‘100-year flood.’  Last month, 15 inches of rain fell in a few hours, flooding and closing Interstate 95 in Providence. If this storm had occurred two miles southwest, it would have led to a major flooding event as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration.  My concern is that the PCBs and other toxic chemicals that are currently sequestered and capped will permeate the sand and wells located at this site and migrate into the river and its sediment.”

In letters to DEM Director Terrence Gray, and Aaron Gilbert, EPA RCRA facilities manager, Representative McNamara asked the two agencies to work together to address four issues:

  1. Public notification of the results of any testing that is done on the site, including the die testing to determine if PCBs are leaching into wells and the river.
  2. Develop a community notification plan if ground water containments are leaked into the Pawtuxet River.
  3. Develop a plan to address the remediation of contamination sediment on residential and business properties that minimizes the risk to human health and the environment.
  4. Develop plans that use weather models that factor in projected increases in flooding events based upon updated climate data.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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