Environmental group calling for changes after Allens Avenue scrap yard fire

Tuesday’s submarine fire is the latest in a string of incidents in the area in recent years that have residents nearby concerned about air, water, and soil pollution

By: Tim Studebaker

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Just in the last four years, the Allens Avenue area has seen:

– A train derailment (the tanker was carrying ethanol): https://www.abc6.com/crews-respond-to-train-derailment/

– A gasoline spill after a truck overturned on the ramp from Allens Avenue to I95 north, with gasoline reaching the Providence River: https://www.abc6.com/tanker-truck-tipped-causing-gas-spill-on-allens-ave/

– A high pressure natural gas line rupture: https://www.abc6.com/warning-highways-blocked-high-pressure-gas-leak-in-providence/

– A fire at a metal scrap yard: https://www.abc6.com/large-pile-of-scrap-metal-catches-fire-in-providence/

– And now the latest in that string of incidents, a submarine caught fire Tuesday at that same scrap yard.  This latest fire has an environmental group renewing their call for changes.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Monica Huertas lives in the Washington Park neighborhood of Providence.  She says, “I started getting text messages ‘Oh go outside, go outside, look outside.’  So I go outside, I look, and I see this cloud of smoke.”

It’s a sight that caught the eye of many Rhode Islanders Tuesday morning: thick black smoke billowing into the air from a scrap yard on Allens Avenue, raising concerns about air pollution.

Huertas leads an environmental group called The People’s Port Authority. She says incidents like this one are all too common in her neighborhood.

Huertas says, “If you’re familiar with the port, you know that this area is already a devastated, devastated area.  It has tons of environmental issues, environmental justice issues.”

According to fire officials and the DEM, workers at Rhode Island Recycled Metals were using blow torches to cut up an old submarine when rubber on its hull caught fire.  The company was removing that submarine to comply with orders from the DEM after it sank into the Providence River.  Incidents like this one have Huertas concerned for the safety and wellbeing of her family and her neighbors.

Huertas says, “When is enough going to be enough?  Is there somebody gonna have to be hurt for people to start listening?”

According to the DEM, a hazmat specialist inspected the scene and says while there was a lot of smoke, there was minimal impact on the waterway because firefighters didn’t need to use chemical firefighting foam. They also say a film on the water was contained by equipment required by DEM.  Meanwhile, Huertas is working with lawmakers to try to prevent something like this from happening again.

Huertas says, “That scrap metal yard has to be shut down completely, and all that soil has to be remediated.  Something new has to go there.  Something that’s good for the community”

ABC6 has reached out to Rhode Island Recycled Metals for comment.  At the time this article was published, we had not heard back.  If they respond in the future, their comments will be added to this article.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2021

Categories: News, Providence, Rhode Island