Despite odor, DEM says they found no de-icer in Buckeye Brook       

Warwick Beacon Online

Thursday, March  08, 2007 




On the evening of Feb. 26, Steve Insana, founder of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, took his dog for the last walk of the day.



“I was hit in the face with a wall of chemical smell,” he said.



Immediately, Insana suspected glycol run-off from the de-icing at T.F. Green Airport. Not completely trusting his nose, the next day he asked a friend, Walter Santilli, to come over.



“At first I thought Steve had an antifreeze leak from his truck,” said Santilli. “The smell was all around his house. Then we went down to the brook and it was unbelievable. That sweet chemical smell was everywhere.”



Indeed, Insana learned the airport was briefly closed on the morning of Feb. 26 due to icy conditions. Insana called the Department of Environmental Management on Feb. 27.



“Last week we did get a call [about the brook],” said Gail Mastrati, spokesperson for the DEM, “But the truck broke down on its way.” They dispatched another inspector a few days later. “We did send an inspector [March 5] and no odors or discoloration were noted, so no samples were taken.”



“When it happens it lasts a couple of days,” said Insana. “You notice it mostly at night, when the air is still. All sorts of people live around here, and they don’t know what it is except that it’s bad. One old lady came out of her house crying, the smell was so bad. She lives right next to the brook, and the intake on her heating system sucked the smell right into her house.”



Insana said he has been at loggerheads with the Rhode Island Airport Corporation over this issue before and said the airport installed a system designed to capture de-icer fluid that spills on the ground.



“It doesn’t seem to be working,” said Insana. “I wish the EPA would get involved, because the DEM seems to be dragging its feet. I’ve been to their offices and pulled the records. RIAC has a number of outstanding NOVs (notices of violation). Why aren’t they complying? And a permanent air quality monitoring station was supposed to be set up by the first of this year. That hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s being proposed to grant them a postponement. Why?”



Insana said the media is not giving the problem the coverage it deserves.



“The Providence Journal won’t give it statewide exposure. When something concerns the airport, it’s a statewide issue, but they always confine their brook stories to the West Bay section, so the rest of the state knows nothing about it,” he said.



He brought us down to look at the brook. “De-icer is a toxic cocktail,” he said. “The bottom of the brook practically glows orange, and there’s no natural weeds, just the sickly green algae that seems to flourish and suck up all the brook’s oxygen.”



“I do try to give RIAC some credit for trying,” he conceded. “And I understand we’re supposed to be good neighbors – support economic development. I used to be for airport expansion, but I’m not anymore. We still get this stench. Whatever they’re doing, it isn’t working. The area is too environmentally constrained and residentially confined. This just isn’t right.”