PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State officials have directed the developer of the 6-10 connector to remove soil from the high-profile highway project after an independent consulting company confirmed it contained contaminated materials.
The announcement comes weeks after the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 57, which is working on the project, made allegations that the lead developer – Barletta Construction – was bringing in thousands of tons of contaminated soil from stockpile sites in Pawtucket and Boston.
A Target 12 call to Barletta’s headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts, was referred to an unnamed local project manager. A call to the number provided went unanswered and there was no voicemail.
The R.I. Department of Environmental Management and the R.I. Department of Transportation made the joint decision that the soil should be removed to the Johnston landfill as soon as possible, according to a press release and spokesperson.
“The recent soil samples raised some concerns which are being addressed immediately by RIDOT, which plans to direct that the soil pile and any other soils brought on to the Plainfield site by removed to a licensed disposal site,” DEM director Janet Coit said in a statement.
The 6-10 connector is a well-known highway redevelopment project of Route 6 and Route 10, which snakes through six neighborhoods and is a major artery connecting suburban communities to downtown Providence. The project is slated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars and be completed by 2023.
The independent test results come less than a week after RIDOT Director Peter Alviti vigorously defended the development company, claiming his department had done a second round of testing based on the union’s claims and found all chemicals were “non-detectable, or well under the federal guideline limits and state guideline limits.” (One sample was slightly above the threshold, he said, but “not high enough to have any concern.”)
The director instead claimed the local union was improperly accusing RIDOT and the developer, alluding that there could be some ulterior motive to their claims.
“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Alviti said last week during an interview on WPRO radio. “We owe it to the public to clear this up completely.”
Alviti on Wednesday told Target 12 he wasn’t surprised by the latest results, but lauded his department for continuing to look into the matter — even after their tests from last week came below the allowable threshold.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” Alviti said about the most recent test results. “We’re concerned, certainly.”
The more recent samples were taken on Saturday by a RIDOT consultant with DEM oversight and “showed levels of some contaminants above regulatory thresholds,” according to a press release.
Local 57 union president James White declined to comment on the story, citing an ongoing investigation.
The union made the allegations after hiring its own company to test soil samples from the worksite, and the results showed elevated substances that cause cancer among other things.
The allegations were concerning enough that the state’s two largest unions for the R.I. State Police and Providence Police Department refused to work details on the site. Contacted Wednesday, Providence union president Michael Imondi said he hadn’t heard about the new test results.
The lab results contradicted separate soil test results provided to the state by the development company, which the union claimed was because the soil used in their testing came from an off-site stockpile that differed from the Boston and Pawtucket locations.
“DEM observed evidence that showed a correlation between materials brought to the site from other projects and the higher levels of contamination detected in those areas in the pile,” state officials wrote in a press release. “Based on this correlation, DEM and RIDOT agreed that the pile in question should be removed. The contractor will also remove any other soil that may have been imported to that site from other off-site sources and dispose of them at a facility licensed to accept that material.”
The process is expected to take two to three weeks. On Wednesday, a RIDOT spokesperson said the state has asked the contractor to remove the soil “as soon as possible.”