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Toxic soil found next to Providence park

By,  Walt Buteau,

Photo via

Photo via

The Department of Environmental Management ordered a Providence LLC to remove soil from land next to a park on Valley Street after a DEM inspection found the soil ‘contains hazardous substances’ including lead and arsenic.

Documents show the soil was hauled from a piece of property that was purchased with a $620,000 taxpayer funded loan from the embattled Providence Economic Development Partnership.

In the letter, the company was told the contaminated soil “shall be taken offsite for disposal at a facility that is licensed to receive contaminated soil”.

In December, an eyewitness who asked to remain anonymous, told Target 12 he saw “6 hours of digging” at the Valley Street location on November 27. He reported seeing dozens of loads of soil hauled away and dumped in the wooded area that abuts Donigian Park and playground. That wooded area is part of the 5 acre 100 Amherst Street lot.

The DEM confirmed last December that the agency was investigating a complaint that soil was removed from  181 Valley Street. A clean up plan for the property indicates the soil contains “arsenic, lead, poly-nuclear aromatic hydrocarbon and total petroleum hydrocarbons”. Read More


Study finds fault with lead-testing technique

Soil Samples with Lead

Soil Samples with Lead (Photo credit: PlaxcoLab)


By Jason Nadboy,


By examining deeper soil, researchers found past methods for measuring lead to be inaccurate


More soil lead contamination exists in Rhode Island than previously recorded by state lead examiners, according to a recent study by University researchers.


The study examined the lead-testing methods of the Rhode Island Department of Health and found previous methods literally did not dig deep enough — only examining surface soil samples when lead may be found deeper in the soil.


One source of lead contamination is paint coating water towers painted decades ago. The paint chips off, falls to the soil and is blown around by the wind.



When one such tower was replaced in 2003, contractors inspecting the site found areas surrounding the tower had soil containing lead by Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management standards, according to the study. Residents nearby were disgusted by the discovery of lead and hired their own contractors to determine just how much of the nearby soil was hazardous, using Rhode Island Department of Health standards instead.


Spurred to action, the state health department requested the Brown University Superfund Research Program look into the department’s standards for examining soil for lead. The researches found because the department only looked at surface soil samples, they missed the presence of lead lurking beneath the top layer and underestimated the level of contamination.


Soil samples from 31 properties were analyzed for lead concentrations. Four locations — comprising 13 percent of properties examined — were labeled “soil lead hazard,” according to the study.


The researchers took samples from the surface of the soil along with samples from both six inches and 12 inches below the surface, said Marcella Thompson, postdoctoral research associate in pathology and laboratory medicine, and the lead author of the study.


The researchers found certain properties to be misclassified in terms of their lead hazard. These locations were falsely classified because only the surface of these properties had been examined for lead, Thompson said.


Lead contained in deeper levels of soil can still serve as a source of exposure for humans. “If you’re thinking about planting a garden, lead can be taken by the plants,” said Kim Boekelheide, professor of medical science, pathology and laboratory medicine and an author of the study. Children also risk exposure when they play in contaminated dirt, he added.


According to Rhode Island Department of Health standards, lead­-free soil refers to soil with less than 150 milligrams of lead per kilogram of soil, as noted in the study. This can be confusing, especially to residents with no scientific background, Thompson said.


“The use of the terminology ‘lead­-free’ was not really lead free,” Thompson added.


After the study highlighted faults in the state health department’s lead testing techniques, the department has committed to tweaking standards, Thompson said. Read More