Controversial Blackstone Cleanup Plan Could Threaten Vision for National Park

CUMBERLAND, RI – A controversial proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) could threaten the vision for a national park along the banks of the Blackstone River in Cumberland and Lincoln.  Local residents, elected officials and some key supporters of the national park proposal from both Lincoln and Cumberland have voiced their concern about the EPA’s proposed cleanup plan for a Superfund site on the Blackstone River.  The comment period for the proposal has been extended twice at the request of local officials and community groups.

The Peterson/Puritan, Inc. Operable Unit 2 (OU-2) Superfund Site in Cumberland consists of the inactive, privately owned J.M. Mills Landfill, an unnamed island, and a parcel of land just north of the Pratt Dam on the Blackstone.  The Blackstone Valley Bike Path is directly across the river from the clean-up site.

Visit to learn more.

The EPA released its proposed plan for remediation on July 31, 2014.  Since that time, opposition to the plan has been mounting with local residents, elected officials, and community leaders from both Lincoln and Cumberland.  Chief among the fears are that the EPA plan would require the cutting and removal of almost every tree across 50 to 70 acres of land and prevent re-use of the area for recreational or passive use.

The Lincoln Town Council unanimously approved a resolution in October encouraging the EPA to provide the community with a more sensible plan “that leaves as much of the existing vegetation in place as possible” and “keeps the Blackstone River open and accessible to all.”   The Cumberland Town Council has hired an independent engineering firm to review the matter.

In addition to the local residents and local officials voicing concern about the EPA proposal, several community groups have stepped forward to weigh in.   The Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor (BRVNHC) asked the EPA to develop a plan that includes no physical or psychological barriers to the Blackstone.
“The approach must allow for continued access to and from the Blackstone River and its shores for recreation and tourism,” said Charlene Perkins Cutler, Executive Director of the BRVNHC in her letter.  “A denuded landscape along this National Heritage Corridor results in a de facto barrier, which in turn constitutes a blight on this most valued national resource.”
BRVNHC also requested that the EPA provide illustrative site/concept plans to help determine if the proposal is consistent with their Congressional goals “and to consider whether the proposed solution avoids a significant adverse impact to the resources of our National Heritage Corridor.”  (To see the BRVNHC letter in its entirety, click here.)

The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, one of the leading advocates for the national park proposal, expressed reservations about the clean-up plan, as well.  “The remediation plan should use an approach that is environmentally safe of course, but it must also use an approach that is esthetically pleasing and useful,” wrote Council President Dr. Robert Billington.  “Scenic paths, vegetation and river access are minimal requirements for this site. We do not see the USEPA plans meeting these needs.”

The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, in a letter from their President and CEO John C. Gregory, also expressed concerns about the proposal.

There is also growing concern that the EPA proposal may in fact run counter to the Ashton-Pratt Corridor Redevelopment Plan, which was adopted by both the Cumberland and Lincoln Town Councils in 2004 to “facilitate a unified approach to redevelopment and rehabilitation of the Ashton-Pratt Corridor as a dynamic node along the Blackstone River.”

The EPA is accepting comments on their proposed plan until January 23, 2015.
About the PRPs: The Potentially Responsible Parties (“PRPs”) are a small percentage of all the businesses, companies and municipalities who were customers of the permitted landfill at the site of the proposed clean up during its 30 years of operation from the mid – 1950’s to the early – 1980’s.  Many local Rhode Island companies are included among the PRP group. This information was distributed by the PRP Group.

Leave a comment

Avatar About the Author: The Rhode Island Small Business Journal is a printed monthly magazine and an online resource for the aspiring and start-up entrepreneur and small business owner.

previous arrow
next arrow