South Providence, at the port, is one of the heaviest concentrations of toxic chemical storage in New England, and not coincidentally, those who live in the area suffer the highest rates of asthma. Sherrie Anne Andre of the FANG Collective and Julian Rodríguez-Drix of the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island lead a tour of over 60 people, including Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, along Allens Avenue, pointing out some of the worst polluters in our state.
The Rhode Island Recycled Metals facility was the first stop. In 2015 the US Coast Guard revealed that the site was operating without proper permits. As a result the facility was not in compliance with laws regarding oil spillage and storm water run-off. In general, recycling is a good and positive thing. But when done without concern for the health and safety of residents and the environment, the losses can outweigh the gains.
Motiva Enterprises LLC occupies both sides of Allens Avenue. Chemical piping actually runs underneath the road. Motiva is a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Shell Oil. Here in Providence the facility is the largest of many fuel terminals in the port and a major importer of petroleum products. It receives regular shipments via tanker ship and exports via truck. The Port of Providence is the entry point for the majority of fuels that power southern New England. In 2014 Motiva managed 34,425 pounds of toxic waste products. Over 1000 pounds of toxic waste was emitted into the air, making Motiva the largest air emitter in the City of Providence.
Ethanol trains come through the port every week. Known as “bomb trains” elsewhere in the United States, similar trains were banned in Boston because of safety and toxic concerns. The ethanol is mixed at the Motiva facility and transported out.
Univar is the largest facility in the area. It is a wholesale chemical distributor and chlorine manufacturer. As far as is known, though Univar produces chemicals used in fracking, they are not manufactured or stored in Rhode Island. There are 3.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals stored at the Univar facility. It is the most dangerous facility in all of Rhode Island, with a 14 mile hazard radius. Stored here are 1.4 million pounds of chlorine gas, 1.2 million pounds of anhydrous ammonia, 626,400 pounds of ammonium and 35,000 pounds of formaldehyde. each one requires a chemical risk assessment plan from the Environmental Protection Agency.
National Grid wants to upgrade its facilities at the Port of Providence by installing a liquefaction plant on the premises. This would allow the company to supercool LNG so that it becomes more compact, allowing the company to store much more LNG on the premises. Note that LNG is fracked methane, imported through pipelines to the facility. These pipelines, owned by Spectra Energy, run through Burrillville, through Cumberland, and across the bay from East Providence.
The existing storage tank is filled by truck. It takes about 2600 trucks to fill the 24.2 million gallon tank, said Andre.
The proposed LNG liquefaction facility will cost $180 million. These costs will most likely be passed on to consumers. The facility will be located between National Grid’s existing storage tank and the Univar facility. The energy required to power the liquefaction is equivalent to half of the energy generated by Deepwater Wind, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, presently under construction off the coast of Rhode Island.
One more concern: National Grid is located on the former site of a manufactured gas plant. The soil in the area is soaked with chemicals from when a company squeezed gas from coal, a toxic process that permanently contaminated the land. The RI Department of Environmental Management has records of dozens of other leaking, underground tanks in this area. “The soil we are walking on is known to be toxic,” said Rodríguez-Drix.
On the National Grid site, some of the chemical contaminants have been capped with the intention of keeping the contamination from further spreading, but this capping will be disturbed when construction begins, allowing the wind to carry the toxins into the air and into the bay for the two years of construction.
Below is video of the tour:
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein attended the Toxic Tour, and talked about the Green New Deal.
Raymond Two-Hawks spoke about the aboriginal response to the continued denigration of his ancestral lands.
Laura Perez is running for House District 11 against incumbent state Representative Grace Diaz.
Sheila Calderone is a resident of South providence and a member of the Environmental Justice League who suspects that illnesses she has suffered are a result of the pollutants she has been exposed to while growing up in the area.