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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Sens. Calkin, Metts, Quezada call for public information on effects of Providence gas rupture
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Jeanine Calkin, Sen. Harold M. Metts and Sen. Ana B. Quezada are calling on the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management to release information to the public about the health and environmental impacts of the March 29 gas leak on Allens Avenue in Providence.
In letters sent today to the directors of both departments, the senators raised concerns about the lack of public information so far about any findings by either department, and asked that each inform the public soon about the possible effects and what can be done to mitigate them.
“As you are no doubt aware, the 19 million cubic feet of natural gas that was released is significant in terms of gas leaks, and we are concerned about what the effects could be on our air quality, the health of those living or working nearby and the Narragansett Bay, located just a few blocks from the site of the rupture,” they wrote in the letters to DEM Director Janet L. Coit and Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
“We feel there has been little information given to those who live or frequent the area about whether they should be concerned, whether they should be watching out for any particular adverse effects on their health or environment, and whether there is anything they should be doing to protect themselves. Even if you believe the spill did not have a significant adverse effect on people or the environment, we are asking that you communicate your findings publicly very soon. Rhode Islanders need assurance that the effects have been, or are being, investigated and that their state is doing everything possible to protect them, including arming them with any information they need to protect themselves.”
The three senators expressed particular concern for the people who live in the surrounding South Providence and Washington Park neighborhoods, who were exposed to the leak and have high potential to be exposed to further incidents due to the concentration of utility infrastructure located along the Allens Avenue area.
“In particular, the residents of South Providence and Washington Park deserve to know that the state is taking this matter seriously. Since a great deal of the state’s natural gas infrastructure is located in this neighborhood, what steps are being taken to ensure that utilities are maintaining equipment and preventing such environmental disasters in the future? What is your department able to do to require utilities to do so?” they wrote.
The gas leak, caused by a rupture of a Spectra Energy high-pressure pipeline, spewed a reported 19 million cubic feet of natural gas into the environment. According to an account by EcoRI.org, that amount is enough to heat 190,000 homes for a single day. The same Ecori.org account stated that the leak also released two gallons of polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs. Any other potential contaminants have not been publicly released, so it’s unknown if there could be other health impacts on the residents in the area.
The senators also extended their assistance in case the investigations have uncovered any ways in which laws protecting the public from utility-related problems could be improved.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
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