PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Federal investigators found a contractor who worked on the 6-10 Connector redevelopment project made false statements about contaminated soil found on site.
Officials began investigating in 2020 after the state ordered Barletta Heavy Division, of Canton, Massachusetts, to remove 1,600 cubic yards of contaminated soil.
Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said the former superintendent for the project, Dennis Ferreira, imported a mix of loose stone from a Massachusetts construction site, along with soil from the Pawtucket-Central Falls Rail Station, to the 6-10 connector site.
Watch: U.S. Attorney discusses the case (Story continues below.)
Ferreira then lied to federal investigators about the purity and source of the soil, according to law enforcement.
Cunha’s office announced Ferreira has agreed to plead guilty to charges of making false statements.
Barletta agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and will return $1 million to the federal government.
Cunha’s office said Ferreira had a hand in a report sent to the R.I. Department of Transportation which falsely represented the stone’s environmental quality.
Ferreira was also accused of lying about the stone’s origin and environmental quality, saying none of it came from Pawtucket. RIDOT officials also received a letter, arranged by Ferreira, which falsely stated the stone from Massachusetts was tested before being sent to the project in Rhode Island.
The investigation showed Barletta received test results confirming the stone did not meet environmental standards in August 2020. Investigators said Ferreira asked a Barletta employee to alter the test results, wash and retest the stone, or use a sample from a different site that would pass testing.
“When federal tax dollars fund work in our communities, we expect that the government will get what it bargains for. In this case, that didn’t happen,” Cunha said. “Today’s resolution should serve as a reminder to any company or corporate official that, when the government is footing the bill, false statements have consequences.”
Concerns regarding the soil’s purity began after the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 57 accused Barletta of bringing contaminated soil from Pawtucket and Boston.
“RIDOT has and will continue to work with the Federal and state agencies to assure Barletta’s compliance with all provisions of their contract,” a RIDOT spokesperson said. “As a result of this resolution, RIDOT will now proceed with exercising all legal and financial remedies afforded under our contract provisions with Barletta.”
R.I. Department of Environmental Management spokesperson Mike Healey released a statement to 12 News explaining how the soil was contaminated.
“The soil samples tested by DEM found elevated levels of Benzo(a) pyrene, which is in a class of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),” Healey wrote. “PAHs occurs naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline. They result from burning coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, and tobacco and often are found in the soils of cities with industrial legacies.
“PAHs can bind to or form small particles in the air,” he continued. “High heat when cooking meat and other foods will form PAHs. Naphthalene is a manmade PAH used in the United States to make other chemicals and mothballs. Cigarette smoke contains many PAHs.”