Landfill faces suit over alleged Clean Air violations

With temperatures in the 90s this week, the smell of hot garbage near the Central Landfill in Johnston is enough to make most stomachs turn.

Joe Vinagro said it's the owners of the landfill though, that make him sick.

"I smell methane five of seven days a week. It should be shut right down," Vinagro said.

He's lived across the street from the Central Landfill his entire life. Now, he's concerned it's affecting his health and the health of his ailing wife.

"She has Alzheimer's and her condition is getting worse. Sometimes I worry she's getting more sick because of what's across the street," Vinagro said.

The Conservation Law Foundation on Thursday sent a notice of intent to sue to the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., the quasi-public agency that owns and operates the landfill, as well as Broadrock Gas Services and its subsidiary, Rhode Island LFG Genco, which operates a power plant that turns landfill gases into electricity.

"If you have a nose on your face, you're smelling a rotten egg smell associated with the landfill," said Tricia Jedele of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Jedele said it's the responsibility of the Department of Environmental Management to enforce the Clean Air Act.

The DEM released a statement following the news.

"The Department of Environmental Management is evaluating the issues raised by CLF in their notice of intent. We plan to meet with CLF to discuss and better understand the issues, and to determine what role DEM can play to address and resolve the issues raised by CLF. DEM will continue to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce environmental laws applicable to the Central Landfill," the DEM said.

Broadrock and Rhode Island Resource Recovery simply stated, "We do not comment on ongoing litigation."

Jedele said ultimately the owners of the landfill are responsible. She equated the DEM's regulation to that of a cop failing to pull over a criminal speeder.

"Even if a cop doesn't pull you over, you know you're speeding. These people want to own and operate a landfill-to-gas-to-energy facility and all the pipelines here they have to know if they're in compliance or not," Jedele said.

CLF simply alerted the owners of the landfill of their intent to file. Standard procedure is that a lawsuit will follow in 60 days.