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After years of dumping incinerator ashes, Pawtucket could be liable for big cleanup

After years of dumping incinerator ashes, Pawtucket could be liable for
big cleanup

Tests will show the extent of the problem

By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

PAWTUCKET – For years, few gave much thought to the ash coming from the
old city incinerator. As was often the practice with such hazardous
materials, residue from the trash burned there was dumped at the nearest
convenient spot.

City officials of today fear that those past practices could mean that
the city is responsible for a major contamination cleanup on land near
the now-defunct incinerator off Mineral Spring Avenue. Experts they’ve
hired have warned that the problem there could be a big one.

The dumping site, on a back portion of the Lorraine Mills property at 560
Mineral Spring Ave., is owned by DIBCO LLC and 560 Mineral Spring Ave.
LLC. A mill complex on the front the property is home to artist studios,
a textile company, and a brewery, among other businesses.

The City Council Committee on Claims and Pending Suits voted behind
closed doors last week to spend $11,600 to hire a company to drill wells
and test core samples to determine exactly what went into the soil all
those years.

“We don’t know what else is there that wasn’t put there by the city, so
we feel it’s in our best interest to test the site to determine what is
our responsibility, if any,” said City Councilor Albert Vitali Jr.,
chairman of the claims committee.

City-based Sage Environmental is expected to complete the soil study,
according to Vitali.

Spending a few thousand taxpayer dollars now, presumably to remove any
culpability on the city’s part, could save hundreds of thousands of
dollars in court costs and “protect the taxpayer” down the road, said
Vitali. Members of the claims committee believe working with the owners
of the property to get it cleaned up is the best option available, he

Members of Mayor Don Grebien’s administration are in the process of
determining if the city compensated prior owners of the property in
exchange for being allowed to dump ash on it, according to Vitali.

“If so, our liability is minimal,” he said.

Grebien could not immediately be reached for comment this week.

City officials are conducting a title search to determine who owned the
property during the years the dumping was happening, said Vitali. The
property, located just up the road from the city’s waste transfer
facility, is used today for a number of industrial operations, he said.
The combined DIBCO/560 Mineral Spring properties are valued at $3.69
million, according to the city’s tax database.

The reason the contamination is becoming an issue now, said Vitali, is
that the owners of the property, in trying to refinance, were told by
bank officials that they would need to complete soil testing. To settle a
claim against the city, avoid a lawsuit, and eliminate the potential for
big hazardous waste cleanup costs down the road, city officials are now
paying for the testing, he said.

“We’re trying to cover all our bases,” said Vitali. “Rectifying the issue
is in both of our interests.”

It’s best to “spend a little” to avoid a big court battle, he added.

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