AG Neronha brings charges in connection to toxic soil dumping at 6/10 Connector construction
Attorney General Peter Neronha announced today that his office has charged a Massachusetts-based construction firm and a former employee with illegally dumping thousands of tons of contaminated fill at project sites in Providence during the construction of the Route 6/10 Interchange construction project.
Update [January 30, 2023]: Representatives Lauren Carson and David Morales introduced a bill making it a felony to use hazardous waste as fill. See below for the full press release.
Today’s charges, filed by way of criminal information in Providence County Superior Court, stem from an investigation led by the Office of the Attorney General; the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Rhode Island; the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General; the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General; and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
The Attorney General has charged Barletta Heavy Division, Inc. (Barletta), with two counts of illegal disposal of solid waste, one count of operating a solid waste management facility without a license, and one count of providing a false document to a public official. Barletta is a Canton, Massachusetts-based construction firm, overseeing the ongoing $247 million Route 6/10 Interchange highway construction project that began in 2018.
The Attorney General has also charged Dennis Ferreira (age 62), of Holliston, Massachusetts, a former senior employee of Barletta, with two counts of illegal disposal of solid waste, one count of operating a solid waste management facility without a license, and one count of providing a false document to a public official.
The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on February 1, 2023, in Providence County Superior Court. Dennis Ferreira and a representative in a position of authority from Barletta will be in court for arraignment.
“As alleged in the Information, Mr. Ferreira and Barletta used the 6/10 site as an environmental dumping ground, and not only for Rhode Island waste. Worse yet, they made Rhode Island a dumping ground for Massachusetts waste,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Their actions come at the expense of Rhode Islander’s public health and their environment. Rhode Island’s environmental and public health laws exist for a reason. To keep Rhode Islanders safe, and to preserve our environment. We will continue to aggressively enforce those laws. Because Rhode Islanders deserve nothing less.”
- As alleged in the criminal information, in July 2020, the defendants authorized the disposal of more than 4,500 tons of stone and soil contaminated with hazardous materials at the Route 6/10 Interchange construction project.
- In 2020, Dennis Ferreira was the Superintendent of the Route 6/10 Interchange construction project and as alleged in the information, possessed broad authority over the project, including the acquisition of material to be used on site.
- As alleged in the information, Barletta is required to analyze any fill brought to the 6/10 project site for contaminants and must certify any fill be suitable for use at the site.
- It is alleged that the defendants sourced known contaminated fill from the site of the Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station on the border of Pawtucket and Central Falls, and from a Barletta materials stockpile in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. The site of the Pawtucket/Central Falls Commuter Rail Station has been used as a rail yard for nearly 150 years and the presence of soil contaminants, including arsenic and PAH’s, have been previously confirmed. At the Jamaica Plain site, Barletta stockpiled contaminated stone generated from railbed replacement work they conducted on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) B and C Green lines.
- As alleged in the information, the defendants authorized the transport of approximately 1,114 tons of contaminated soil from the Pawtucket/Central Falls site and approximately 3,460 tons of contaminated stone from the Jamaica Plain site to the 6/10 project site.
- It is also alleged that in late July 2020, state officials with DEM and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (DOT) asked Dennis Ferreira for an environmental certification for the transported stone, and he provided an environmental testing report with analysis from another site, to hide the fact that the 6/10 site stone was contaminated.
Separately, on December 14, 2022, Dennis Ferreira pleaded guilty in federal court to three counts of making a false statement in connection with a federally funded highway project. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 16, 2023. As announced by United States Attorney Zachary Cunha, Barletta agreed to pay a total of $1.5 million to the federal government.
The prosecution of the state case is being led by Assistant Attorneys General John Moreira and Peter Roklan of the Office of the Attorney General, and Sheila Paquette of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The Attorney General is grateful to United States Attorney Zachary Cunha; the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General; and the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General for their partnership in the overall investigation of this matter.
Carson introduces bill prohibiting, penalizing contaminated construction fill [January 23, 2023]
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.