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DEM: Putrid Smell is Emanating From Landfill, Noncompliance Letter Sent

Rhode Island Resource Recovery has been instructed to stop the smell from emanating beyond its property line.

The putrid smell wafting over swaths of the city in recent weeks is in fact emanating from the Johnston landfill and its operators have been ordered to solve the problem, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Management said today.

DEM compliance officers detected odors emanating from the Rhode Island Resource Recovery facility on Shun Pike in Johnston “that were considered objectionable beyond the property line of said facility,” according to an Oct. 19 letter of noncompliance send to RIRRC by the DEM.

The letter ends speculation about the source of the smell, which has been described as a putrid burning smell that varies in intensity from faint to overpowering across a large section of the city.

The DEM detected the odors on two occasions. On Oct. 12, a representative of the Office of Compliance and Inspection detected odors “determined to be emanating from the [RIRRC] facility” and on Oct. 17, a representative of the Office of Waste Management also detected the odors.

For residents downwind of the facility, a solution to the problem couldn’t come sooner. Ed Langlois, who has lived in Cranston for three years, said he started to smell “this horrendous odor about six months ago. I had never smelled it before then.”

Langlois, who lives behind the Walmart on Plainfield Pike, said there are some days the smell is so strong, “you can actually smell it inside my home.”

Langlois is not alone. City officials have received numerous calls about the smell from upset residents. The issue was raised at the last two City Council meetings.  Director of Constituent and Governmental Affairs Carlos Lopez said last week that the city was working with Governor Lincoln Chafee’s office and it was believed the source of the odor was not the landfill.

There were a few theories circulating — it might be coming from tilling at an old pig farm, or from an electrical turbine off Route 295 that caused problems in the past. Lopez said the DEM was investigating.

And then yesterday, Lopez told the City Council that the governor’s office told the city that the smell was actually coming from the landfill after all.

The noncompliance letter, signed by DEM Supervising Air Quality Specialist Christopher R. John, states the “objectionable odors constitute a violation” of air pollution regulations prohibiting such odors beyond the property line.

RIRRC was instructed by the DEM to implement “immediate actions to eliminate” the odors and failure to do so could result in a formal enforcement action and fines.

If the smell does finally go away, it will be a breath of fresh air for many residents who have been forced to hold their noses.

"There are some days it's not there," Langlois said. "And other days it just about takes your breath away."

Cranston Resident October 26, 2011 at 12:46 AM
The smell will not go away. It has been there for the last 25 years. In another month nobody will be going outside enough to notice that the smell is still there and the complaints will end. They would have to close the landfill in order to solve the problem.. And that is not going to happen. To be continued next October......
PC October 26, 2011 at 02:19 PM
So, people stop leaving their houses to go to work in the winter? Interesting.
Gary Cooper October 26, 2011 at 03:13 PM
Memo to DEM: Are you sure that stench isn't wafting down from Smith Hill? Just askin'.
philly p October 26, 2011 at 08:56 PM
It is about time that this problem is finally being addressed.I just hope that the DEM will follow up with their investigation to assure that the problem is resolved. It sounds to me that that landfill has got its work cut out for them.This cannot be an easy or inexpensive fix so DEM needs to make sure they are going to eliminate the odor. How do we know what this air is doing to our lungs .It is sure to decrease the value of our neighborhoods if not eliminated and on hot days when they open the windows at the local schools our kids have to smell and breath this putrid air.How can they concentrate on their education with that smell.I urge everyone in the affected areas to be persistent about expressing the complaints if the odor continues.
Julia Turner October 26, 2011 at 09:51 PM
I totally agree with you philly p. I was very concerned this morning when I went into my sons school and the school smelled inside as well. I immediately emailed DEM and got a quick response back with this link to this article. I live in Cranston never mind what Johnston residents are going through.
Ed Langlois October 27, 2011 at 09:04 AM
I understand it's a dump and I don't expect it to smell like roses but lately it is just offensive. I live a few miles away in Cranston and never smelled it as bad as it's been. Something different is happening over there and hopefully they'll fix it or make it somewhat better. We are all entitled to clean air.
Joe The Plumber October 27, 2011 at 01:25 PM
The wind shifts this time of year.

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