Carson introduces bill prohibiting, penalizing
contaminated construction fill
Bill is response to contractor’s violation at 6/10 highway project
STATE HOUSE –After a contractor used hazardous materials on the Route 6/10 connector redevelopment project in Providence, Rep. Lauren H. Carson has introduced legislation specifically making it a felony to use hazardous waste as fill.
The legislation (2023-H 5107) adds to the state’s laws governing hazardous waste a provision prohibiting the use of hazardous waste as fill on any construction site, and makes it a felony for any person to knowingly use it or transport it for such use.
Under the bill, those found guilty of violating that prohibition would be liable for the cost of containment, cleanup, restoration and removal of the contaminated fill, and the court could award triple the costs of damages, losses or injuries that result from its use.
Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) said she introduced the legislation as a result of the use of contaminated fill on the 6/10 project, which endangered the health and safety of residents in the adjacent neighborhood as well as the environment.
“It’s outrageous that in this day and age, when we know about all the dangers that hazardous materials pose to our water and air and what they can do to our health, that a contractor would still feel that they could get away with dumping hazardous materials into the ground at a construction project. I suspect in this particular case, where the project abuts a poor neighborhood, the contractor may have felt no one would have the power to object, and that’s exactly the kind of environmental injustice that hurts poor, urban communities all too often,” said Representative Carson. “The people of Rhode Island care about our environment, and no one deserves to be endangered in this way by careless, dangerous, dirty cost-cutting tricks by any contractor. Our state must learn from this experience and ensure that we treat such actions as the serious crime they are.”
In 2020, after the union representing workers on the project raised red flags, the Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Transportation ordered Barletta Heavy Division, of Canton, Mass., to remove 1,600 cubic yards of contaminated fill that came from the Pawtucket-Central Falls Rail Station and from a railway station construction site in Massachusetts that was also a Barletta project.
A federal investigation ensued, resulting in an agreement in which Barletta paid a $500,000 fine and returned $1 million in federal funding. The federal investigation showed the contractor knew the fill did not meet environmental standards, used it anyway, and falsified reports on it. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha recently charged both the company and its former supervisor for the project with illegal disposal of solid waste, operating an unlicensed solid waste management facility and providing false documents to a state official.
The legislation, which is cosponsored by Rep. David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence), was introduce Jan. 12 and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.