R.I. University, Cities to Pay for Dump Cleanup

The University of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, and two municipalities have agreed to pay for past and future cleanup costs at the West Kingston Town Dump/URI Disposal Area Superfund Site in South Kingstown, R.I., the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency announced Aug. 12.

The board, URI, and the towns of Narragansett and South Kingstown have agreed to perform groundwater remediation and continue other clean-up work at the site at an estimated cost of $2.343 million. The group also will pay $650,000 to the federal government and the state of Rhode Island for past costs and the cost of overseeing performance of the remedy.

The West Kingstown Town Dump/URI Disposal Area Superfund Site consists of several landfills formerly operated by the university and the towns, as well as a former drum storage area operated by the university. The university and the towns installed an impermeable cap over the former landfills in 2006. The cap is designed to eliminate potential exposures to landfill wastes.

Despite the closure, a plume of tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) remains below the site. This plume is believed to have been caused by the abandonment of about a dozen drums first discovered at the former drum storage area in 1989. The plume extends in the direction of Hundred Acre Pond, located approximately 2,500 feet downhill from the former drum storage area.

The agreement requires the settling parties to mix or inject an oxidant into the source-area soil and groundwater plume, to treat the PCE and TCE contamination. It also requires them to maintain the previously installed landfill caps and implement deed restrictions on uses of the site.

Currently, there are no exposure pathways that pose a hazard to the public or environment. Groundwater contamination, however, may pose a threat to potential water supplies if not addressed as outlined in the settlement. Oxidant injections are expected to greatly reduce concentrations of PCE and TCE in the affected groundwater over the next several years; it is also expected that many more years of natural reduction, to be monitored as part of the settlement, will have to occur before the contaminated groundwater will be clean enough to meet federal drinking water standards.

The consent decree, lodged with the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and to approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/open.html. Instructions for submitting comments on the consent decree will be published shortly in the Federal Register.

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