With $100 million settlement, cleanup of Woonasquatucket River a step closer

With $100 million settlement, cleanup of Woonasquatucket River a step closer

This photo of the Woonasquatucket River cleanup site is from the EPA Superfund Management website.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Monday that two subsidiaries of Stanley Black & Decker, Inc., Emhart Industries Inc. and Black & Decker, Inc., have agreed to clean up dioxin-contaminated sediment and soil at the Centredale Manor Restoration Project Superfund Site in North Providence and Johnston.

“This settlement demonstrates the tremendous progress we are achieving working with responsible parties, states, and our federal partners to expedite sites through the entire superfund remediation process,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The Centredale Manor Site has been on the National Priorities List for 18 years; we are taking charge and ensuring the agency makes good on its promise to clean it up for the betterment of the environment and those communities affected.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood said the settlement “ends protracted litigation and allows for important work to get underway to restore a healthy environment for citizens living in and around the Centredale Manor Site and the Woonasquatucket River.”

EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn said officials “are excited to get to work on the cleanup at this site, and get it closer to the goal of being fully utilized by the North Providence and Johnston communities.”

RIDEM Director Janet Coit said the settlement “will speed up a remedy that protects public health and the river environment, and moves us closer to the day that we can reclaim recreational uses of this beautiful river resource.”

The settlement, which includes cleanup work in the Woonasquatucket River and bordering residential and commercial properties along the river, requires the companies to perform the remedy selected by EPA for the site in 2012, which is estimated to cost approximately $100 million, and resolves longstanding litigation.

The cleanup remedy includes excavation of contaminated sediment and floodplain soil from the Woonasquatucket River, including from adjacent residential properties. Once the cleanup is completed, full access to the Woonasquatucket River should be restored for local citizens. The cleanup will be a step toward the state’s goal of a fishable and swimmable river. The work will also include upgrading caps over contaminated soil in the peninsula area of the site that currently house two high-rise apartment buildings. The settlement also ensures that the long-term monitoring and maintenance of the site, as directed in the remedy, will be implemented to ensure that public health is protected.

Litigation related to the site has been ongoing for nearly eight years. While the Federal District Court found Black & Decker and Emhart to be liable for their hazardous waste and responsible to conduct the cleanup of the site, it had also ruled that EPA needed to reconsider certain aspects of that cleanup. EPA appealed the decision requiring it to reconsider aspects of the cleanup. This settlement, once entered, will resolve the litigation between the United States, Rhode Island, and Emhart and Black and Decker, allowing the cleanup of the site to begin.

The site spans a 1.5-mile stretch of the Woonasquatucket River and encompasses a nine-acre peninsula, two ponds and a significant forested wetland. From the 1940s to the early 1970s, Emhart’s predecessor operated a chemical manufacturing facility on the peninsula and used a raw material that was contaminated. The property was also previously used by a barrel refurbisher. Elevated levels of dioxins and other contaminants have been detected in soil, groundwater, sediment, surface water and fish.

Visit www.epa.gov/superfund/centredale for more.