I was surprised the other day when I found out I was NOT looking at a well-kept playing field: I was looking at where the West Warwick Landfill used to be. It's a standing joke that Rhode Islanders routinely give directions in terms of things that haven't been there for years. This was a weird twist on the standard joke: it's true the landfill hasn't been here for years, but it's really STILL HERE!
So I went looking for more background information on this place and any other Rhode Island landfills that "used to be."
The EPA not only describes the history of the West Warwick Landfill and categorizes it as a "Site Awaiting NPL [National Priorities List] Decision" (SAND). It also describes another 149 sites ~ former landfills and brownfields ~ in our little state.
You might want to browse through the list and see whether any of these sites are near where you live or where your children play or go to school. And you might want to check on progress to deal with these places adequately.
Another main source of information is the RI Department of Environmental Management's Brownfields webpage. What exactly are brownfields? Here's the description from the RI DEM page:
Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfield sites include all "real property" including residential, as well as industrial commercial properties. The law further defines the term "brownfield site" to include a site that is "contaminated by a controlled substance . . .; is contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product excluded from the definition of 'hazardous substance'...; is mine-scarred land."
And where are these brownfields in Rhode Island? The Brownfields website has a map of Rhode Island that shows the locations of identified brownfields throughout the state.
Legislation was passed in the 1990s to make it possible for investors to clean up brownfields, and a number of the successful new mill developments were once on the brownfields list. There are still many more opportunities here for developers.
Rhode islanders can participate in the process of clean ups. For more information, see the citizens' guide, "Brownfields: Turning bad spaces into good ones ~ How communities can get involved."