The Newport Planning Board will consider beginning its review of a Demolition Permit for Waites Wharf on November 16 without having the Health and Safety review from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM).
The RIDEM Review
The RIDEM is currently reviewing the Site Investigation Report (SIR) of the 15 toxic chemicals (arsenic, lead, mercury, vinyl chloride, cyanide, and several benzene products) all cancer-causing in amounts above the State Standard for safety found on 10% of Waites Wharf. The RIDEM review includes:

  • Review of the 21 public comments
  • The performing party’s (Mr. Abruzese) response to the comments
  • DEM review of Mr. Abruzese’s responses
  • Work with Mr. Abruzese to remediate the toxic waste site

Demolition Regulations
The RIDEM Review of the Waites Wharf toxic chemicals is important to the health and safety of Newport residents.

The Newport RI Code of Ordinance Regulating the Demolition of Structures states in 17.86.070 A1:
“The granting of a permit is not detrimental to the public health, safety, and general welfare of the community.”
It is important for the Newport Planning Board to have the RIDEM report before it starts to consider the Demolition Permit. This is the public health and safety information the regulations call for.

Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC)

Mr. Abruzese will need a Demolition Permit from the Rhode Island CRMC for Waites Wharf. It would be better for the Newport Planning Board to review the CRMC Demolition Permit process for the same buildings on Waites Wharf before beginning its own review.

Site Investigation Report on All of Waites Wharf
The RIDEM Site Investigation Report (SIR) is being done on 10% of Waites Wharf 150 yards from Newport Harbor where most of the buildings to be demolished are located. It has been suggested that all of Waites Wharf have a SIR so we can know if the whole wharf is polluted with the 15 toxic chemicals found on the 10%. It could make a difference if the whole wharf is a toxic waste site.

Stephen Berlucci, who sits on the Newport Planning Board, recently asked the Board to call for a Site Investigation Report of all of Waites Wharf before they do their review. An attorney for Mr. Abruzese said they have already studied the rest of Waites Wharf. They did it in 1993 with standards that were 27 years old that did not consider things like climate change, ocean surges, better methods to measure toxic chemicals, and the threat to the 5th Ward and Thames Street.
The Planning Board rejected his motion. Stephen Berlucci was involved in the discovery of toxic chemicals from coal ash in Tiverton RI in 2000. The RI Department of Environmental Management documented over 100 homes in Tiverton were on a toxic waste site from the dumped coal ash which had arsenic, cyanide, lead, and mercury. The property values were reduced. The homeowners sued to have the toxic waste removed. It would be helpful to know if all of Waites Wharf is in a toxic waste site similar to the 10% already documented before a Demolition Permit is considered. The danger of the Waites Wharf toxic chemicals is that they can be moved in a storm surge, hurricane, or nor’easter throughout the hundreds of businesses and homes in the Fifth Ward and Thames Street, all at sea level in a high risk flood plain.

Mr. Berlucci knows how dangerous these chemicals are and what a threat they are to the Newport community.

It is important that the Newport Planning Board wait until they have:

  • The RI Department of Environmental Management’s review of the health and safety remediation
  • The Coastal Resources Management Council analysis for a Demolition Permit on Waites Wharf

Some have said the health and safety work of the RIDEM is a parallel process to the Planning Board Demolition Review. They think both can operate separately. They just want to avoid the process that requires the Newport Planning Board to review health and safety as a part of the process not after the review is done. It must be done as an important part when the review begins.

Charles Donahue
Committee to Protect the Health of Newport Residents from the Toxic Wastes Found on Waites Wharf