The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announced on Friday that it plans to increase its inspections of the Central Landfill to include twice-a-week monitoring of odors and review of work to fix the odor problems that have affected several communities.
In a statement, DEM Director Janet Coit said the agency intends to make sure that — the company that manages the landfill — completes the plan it's announced to address the issue.
“In its regulatory role, DEM will oversee the implementation of the corrective action plan by the RIRRC to ensure that it is carried out appropriately and that it resolves the objectionable odors,” said Coit. “DEM will continue to monitor for the presence of odors in the areas surrounding the landfill, and follow up with RIRRC if additional measures are warranted to address the problem.”
RIRRC Director Michael OConnell recently issued a letter apologizing for the stench that issued from the Landfill in mid-October, and describing the steps planned by the company to avoid future problems.
By the end of this week, according to OConnell, the company will add more soil to the landfill and install more wells to capture gases escaping from the dump.
In a meeting on Nov. 2, OConnell told local and state officials that the smell was caused in part by rainwater clogging underground pipes that draw gases away from the landfill.
State Sen. Frank Lombardo III (D-Johnston) said during a recent interview that he credits OConnell with responding effectively to the problem.
"Mike OConnell has done a wonderful job — he's on top of it," Lombardo explained. "Unfortunately, the situation got out of hand. I don't blame Mike at all."
Lombardo announced on Nov. 8 that he plans to file a bill in the General Assembly that would allow independent monitors to visit the Landfill 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ban the use of wall board to cover trash, which he said contributed to the odor problem.
The used sheet rock "contains sulfates, and when they grind it up and bury it, it's the biggest problem with sulfate gas being emitted into the air," Lombardo explained.
Lombardo said he's pushing for quicker action because the odor problem has become more than just an issue for Johnston.
"Johnston is getting a black eye — it's very difficult for a community to survive when we're tagged with 'The town that stinks' — and we need to rectfy this problem as soon as possible," Lombardo explained. "It's not only a Johnston problem, it's a statewide problem -- 11 communities are feeling the effects of the odor."
OConnell announced in his letter that RIRRC has two phone numbers and an email address available for residents to call in reporting continued odors or improvements:
- (401) 942-1430 Ext. 150 (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- (401) 413-6219 (24/7)
- Email: email@example.com