“As you are no doubt aware, the 19 million cubic feet of natural gas that was released is significant in terms of gas leaks, and we are concerned about what the effects could be on our air quality, the health of those living or working nearby and the Narragansett Bay, located just a few blocks from the site of the rupture,” wrote three Rhode Island state senators to the directors of the Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
“We feel there has been little information given to those who live or frequent the area about whether they should be concerned, whether they should be watching out for any particular adverse effects on their health or environment, and whether there is anything they should be doing to protect themselves. Even if you believe the spill did not have a significant adverse effect on people or the environment, we are asking that you communicate your findings publicly very soon. Rhode Islanders need assurance that the effects have been, or are being, investigated and that their state is doing everything possible to protect them, including arming them with any information they need to protect themselves.”
Senators Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick), Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence) and Ana Quezada (Democrat, District 2, Providence) expressed concerns for the residents of South Providence who were exposed to the March 29 National Grid leak and are at risk of further exposure in the event of future problems at any number of hazardous materials stored at and transported through the Port of Providence.
“In particular, the residents of South Providence and Washington Park deserve to know that the state is taking this matter seriously. Since a great deal of the state’s natural gas infrastructure is located in this neighborhood, what steps are being taken to ensure that utilities are maintaining equipment and preventing such environmental disasters in the future? What is your department able to do to require utilities to do so?”
In April RI Future reported about the response to the gas leak, noting that DEM had seemingly done little in response to the leak. In May, it was confirmed by RI Future that DEM had closed their investigation into the leak on the day it occurred and that DOH had done no investigation into the leak at all, leaving only the Rhode island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) doing oversight on repairs. EcoRI learned that the accident had emitted two gallons of potentially cancer causing PCBs.
In addition to requesting an information the senators offered to craft legislation in case any potential investigations uncover ways in which laws protecting the public from utility-related problems could be improved.
The letter to Janet Coit, director of DEM, can be read here.
The letter to Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of DOH, here.