Brook advocate angered airport still without DEM permit    

Warwick Beacon Online  

Written by MATT BOWER,    

Thu, Nov 8, 2007 



Steve Insana, president of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, feels it’s time the Rhode Island Airport Corporation come to an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on a permit that would allow the airport to discharge materials into the brook.


Of concern is propylene glycol, a sticky, non-corrosive chemical found in de-icing material, which is used during the winter seasons on planes and runways.


Insana said the material is very harmful to the brook.


“The propylene glycol becomes toxic because of additive materials that are put in,” he said. “We have a crisis with the river herring. It’s killed off a half mile of aquatic vegetation and some people can smell it three miles away at Narragansett Bay. It’s a serious public issue when you can smell it in your backyard.”


Insana said the material does more than just smell badly and kill aquatic life.


“I spent four hours in the brook cleaning it one time in 2003 and I became very ill from doing it. I experienced dry heaves and dizziness,” he said.


Insana said since DEM has issued a new, more stringent permit that RIAC has yet to comply with, the airport corporation is operating in its fourth de-icing season without a valid permit.


“It seems they can’t come to an agreement on the permit,” he said. “Every time we bring it up, they say it’s going to a hearing. The people are tired of the excuses because they’ve had ample time.”


While terms of a new permit are still in contention, RIAC continues to operate under the provisions of the old permit.


Insana said he wishes to see more cooperation between the two entities.


Narragansett Bay is our greatest natural resource and the airport is our greatest economic engine,” he said. “I think it’s only right that RIAC settle this and close on this so they’re operating on a valid permit.”


Storm water and ice and snow melt at the airport drains into Buckeye Brook that feeds into Narragansett Bay.


“If DEM can’t handle this, it should be cut out of their budget and given to the feds. Let the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] take over,” he said.


Insana said he thinks the state doesn’t want to let it go because it will be embarrassed if the EPA saw what is going on.


“I’m very surprised Governor [Donald] Carcieri has not stepped up and told them [RIAC] to comply with conditions of the permit,” he said. “If they can’t come up with an agreement, I want to see the EPA step in and I want the governor to speak up.”


Insana said the permit, when approved, would allow RIAC to discharge materials into Rhode Island waters. He said RIAC is in violation of the permit every time it rains because storm waters carrying the de-icing material wash off the runway and into the brook.


“DEM drafted a new permit, but they’re fighting about the terms of the permit. It’s very stringent,” he said. “[RIAC] should be a model agency to Rhode Island for discharging materials in its waters.”


DEM spokeswoman Gail Mastrati said that while DEM and RIAC are engaged in settlement discussions and are “cautiously optimistic that a settlement can be reached,” RIAC is not operating on an outdated permit.


“RIAC is in compliance with portions of the 2004 RIPDES [Rhode Island Pollution Discharge Elimination System] permit that are not under appeal, and is in compliance with the previously-issued permit, which remains in full force and effect until a final decision is made on the current RIPDES appeal,” she said.


Rebecca Pazienza, RIAC community affairs manager, said that while RIAC has been involved in many conversations and meetings with DEM, it has worked to reduce the discharge of storm waters into the brook.


“We have a new glycol recovery vehicle, which has helped to cut down on discharge by 20 to 30 percent.  We’re also working on a centralized glycol blending and dispensing facility that should be finished by mid to late November, which will help along with the recovery vehicles,” she said. “Once the facility is up and running, the amount of glycol used will be reduced to 30 percent.”


Although the facility is not up and running yet, Pazienza said there’s no need to worry because the propylene glycol is not being used by the airport because the weather has not yet warranted it.