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Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce Urges EPA to Improve Communications Regarding Blackstone Cleanup Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Lincoln, RI (October 3, 2014) –The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce said today that it was disappointed in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its lack of communication and dialogue with the public regarding its proposed cleanup plan for Operable Unit 2 of the Peterson/Puritan Superfund site on the Blackstone River in Cumberland. Citing a muted public rollout during the first three weeks in August, and little notification about public hearings, the Chamber said more needs to be done to ensure that the community has been educated about the project.

The Peterson/Puritan, Inc. Operable Unit 2 (OU2) Superfund Site consists of the inactive, privately owned J.M. Mills Landfill, an unnamed island, and a parcel of land just north of the Pratt Dam situated in the north-central portion of Rhode Island in the towns of Cumberland and Lincoln . The Blackstone Valley Bike Path is directly across the river from the clean-up site.

“We are not satisfied with the EPA’s communication with the public and surrounding community as they prepare to make a final decision on an important project in the Blackstone River region,” said John C. Gregory, President & CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. “In recent years, the Blackstone has seen a renaissance as its health has continued to improve. The progress along the River highlights the stakes involved for making the right decision about clean-up plans at the OU-2 site.”

The EPA’s proposed plan was released to the public on July 31, along with a feasibility study of more than 2,400 pages. Feasibility studies are often released months in advance of a proposed plan in order to afford the community the opportunity to weigh the available options.

“That simply did not happen here, and that is very troubling,” Gregory said. “The EPA spent years studying this site, but now seems intent on pushing through a proposal with almost no real effort to discuss it or encourage the public to weigh in.”

In mid-September the EPA announced via a postcard sent to a small, limited group of “stakeholders” that it would hold a second hearing on the issue on October 8.

“We at the Chamber did not receive notification and as of yesterday could not find any mention of next week’s meeting anywhere on-line,” Gregory said. “This is completely inadequate. Even the EPA’s webpage dedicated to the project fails to mention next week’s meeting.”

“We look forward to learning more about the proposed cleanup plans and finding a safe and smart solution to this project, but we can’t do it unless the public knows about it and the EPA should be doing everything possible to engage them, not ignore them,” he concluded.

About the Northern Rhode Island Chamber:

The Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of businesses in the communities of Burrillville, Central Falls, Cumberland, Glocester, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, Smithfield and Woonsocket. The NRI Chamber leads the Chamber of Commerce Coalition, representing 10 area chambers of commerce and more than 6,500 businesses and 70,000 employees statewide. For more information about the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, call (401)-334-1000 or visit www.nrichamber.com.

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