GLOCESTER – West Glocester residents are looking for answers about materials being dumped at 2202 Putnam Pike by Smithfield Peat Company, whose base is located at 295 George Washington Highway, Smithfield. The answers may be coming soon.
At the recent Glocester Town Council meeting, residents Sandra and Peter Lowell, whose property abuts the location, expressed their frustration about materials being dumped without permits by Smithfield Peat. Residents have been complaining to the council, said Sandra Lowell, since February.
“It’s been over six months now,” Lowell told the council. “When can we expect answers?”
Other residents at past meetings have complained about the noise of trucks constantly coming and going, but when it was learned that there were no permits issued for the dumping of materials, the complaints took another turn.
“They were in violation when it began,” said Lowell. “I have every right to be concerned about what is going on. I don’t think there are any guarantees it is safe. I have to protect my property.”
When questioned about the situation, town Building Inspector Ken Johnson said the dumping was a result of a misunderstanding, adding that the owner, Smithfield Peat, was under the impression he was allowed to dump materials there.
“That was all…a simple misunderstanding,” explained Johnson. “As for what is going on there right now, nothing is happening.”
Johnson went on to say that when the permit is issued, allowances would be made for the materials already deposited there as part of the permit.
When asked about the timeliness of the issuing of the permit, Johnson admitted that Smithfield Peat had not submitted any plans and hadn’t returned phone calls at that time.
“He does realize he is in violation?” asked Councilor Walter Steere.
“There’s a lot of people in violation,” responded Johnson.
“Has he been given a time frame?” asked Steere.
“As soon as I know, you will know,” said Johnson.
“Now, after six months, they are going to come with a plan,” responded Lowell. “When? They are in violation. It wasn’t a misunderstanding. They are a major business. They have been in business for a number of years. I just want assurance that my property is not contaminated. I don’t understand why the building inspector is so upset. He is not on my side certainly.”
When pressed further, Johnson said he could not do anything more than what he is doing right now. As far as the neighbors were concerned, he said he didn’t know what their problem was.
“There’s nothing going on at all,” he told the council. “Nothing will happen on that property until we know what they are doing. My office is handling it.”
When asked about the material dumped there, Johnson said it was topsoil.
“They are not bringing in contaminated soil,” he told the council.
Peter Lowell, however, disagreed. He said he had talked to the truck drivers on the site and was told the materials were moved from the Smithfield site.
“Actually, it came from the railroad station in Providence,” he explained. “It contains arsenic. I spoke to a couple of the drivers, and they said it was going to be a full scale operation. The owner told me it was going to be three or four guys from a little landscape operation. Obviously, that is not what it is. I am not going to sit here day after day listening to bulldozers, excavators, all the equipment…I am not going to deal with that.”
After more discussion the council agreed to look into getting soil samples from the materials being dumped.
“I think we should look into it,” said Council President William Worthy.
The council agreed to find out how to legally get a sample of the materials being dumped and have them tested and place it on the agenda for the next meeting.
Since that meeting, however, Johnson explained that steps had been taken and that Smithfield Peat had agreed to have samples from all materials on the property tested for hazardous contamination.
“They are going to get an engineering corporation to go up and test all the soils,” Johnson told NRI NOW. “I should have that report by the end of the week, present that to the board, and we can put that issue to bed. There is not contaminated soil on the site.”
Johnson explained that the company is working with the town to remedy the situation, adding that the previous owner, Jackson Depres, had died this past June, and that the company was under new ownership by Darin Clavet, his son-in-law. As a result, it has taken time to deal with everything involved. The original site in Smithfield, he said, is being closed down and the company was in the midst of switching gears. The company, which is licensed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management as a leaf and yard waste composting facility, bills itself as, “the leading organic materials producer of screened loam, compost and mulch in Rhode Island and Southern New England.”
“They are getting out of the processing business,” said Johnson. “They are not looking to process material.”
Ironically, the previous owners of the property, who are related to the Lowells, operated a sand and gravel business there, he added. It was already zoned B2 or a business zone.
“If you think you are not going to have a business next to you in a B2 zone, you are mistaken,” he said of the residents’ concerns.
Johnson explained that they were in the process of remedying the situation, as far as permits were concerned, adding that this is a viable business that will bring tax revenues into the town.
“It would be nice if we could get them in here,” said Johnson. “We tread lightly sometimes because we have to. What we are trying to do is get a solution to a problem that has taken on a life of its own. We don’t take things like this lightly.”