During its last day in session, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed two bills, sponsored by Johnston Rep. Stephen R. Ucci, which create an advisory board for Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation and ban the use of organic materials and construction debris for covering trash at the Central Landfill.
“We’ve passed some good legislation that will both protect our constituents and increase efficiency in our landfill facilities,” Ucci (D-Johnston, Cranston) said in a statement.
Following the odor problems that plagued the landfill last summer and fall — which led Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena to file suit against RIRRC and Broadrock Renewables, the two companies responsible for capturing gases escaping from the trash pile and turning them into electricity.
The first bill creates a Citizen Advisory Board of 12 members, with six appointed by the governor — two each from Johnston, Cranston, and Scituate — and three each selected by the mayor and town council of Johnston, giving Johnston eight seats on the new board.
According to the statement released by Ucci, the advisory board will have a say on RIRRC policies, advise the company on legislation, consider any single expenditure over $500,000, and review future expansion plans, including construction of new buildings larger than 200 sq. ft. and land clearing larger than a quarter acre.
Ucci explained that the board will also submit annual reports to the General Assembly and governor, and at least two of its members will attend all meetings of the RIRRC Board of Directors.
“This is one of the most important bills in relation the landfill that we’ve passed in this legislative session — it’s been a difficult year for many of the residents who surround the landfill because of the air quality problems.” said Ucci, who added that the new legislation “puts some of these [air quality] issues into the hands of the citizens who are most affected by the landfill — their findings will help legislators and the RIRRC build good policy that both protects residents and efficiently provides services to the people in this state.”
The second bill bans the use of construction materials like drywall — suspected of causing at least part of last year's stench — and organic materials to cover trash at the Central Landfill.
“This bill is a pre-emptive strike against any surface or odor problems that could surface from these trash facilities,” Ucci said in the statement. “These materials should not be used as cover.”
Ucci chaired the Special House Commission on RIRRC, which held public meetings last year to gather comment from residents and propose solutions to the odor problems.