On October 21, 2002, the Johnston Fire Department contacted Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) emergency personnel to inform them of an ongoing fire at an unlicensed landfill on Green Hill Road in Johnston, Rhode Island. With DEM air monitoring assistance, the Fire Department was able to address the fire breakout by using fire fighting foam, soil cover and heavy equipment.
By mid-November, local resources were exhausted due to numerous responses to fire and smoke breakouts. DEM then activated their emergency response contractor to bring soil cover material to the site and to provide personnel and equipment to spread it. Due to a number of toxic compounds detected in an on-site smoke plume and that by the beginning of February, 2003, DEM had depleted their resources, EPA prepared an action memorandum which was signed by the Assistant Director for the Office of Site Remediation and Restoration on February 20, 2003.
Upon mobilization to the site, EPA and their Emergency and Rapid Response Services (ERRS) contractor, Shaw E&I (Shaw) began site preparation activities and began addressing a number of fire and/or smoke breakouts occurring at various locations around the pile. In conjunction with battling the breakouts, the crew installed two firewall trenches and began to shape and grade the remainder of the pile. The trenches were tied into the firewall previously constructed by DEM and separated the pile into four roughly equivalent sized cells and total a distance of about 1,500 feet.
Once the pile was shaped to eliminate any particularly steep sections, it was completely capped with an approximate two foot layer of a fine grained silty soil which was also tied into the trenches. The silt cap was then covered with a layer of loam which was hydroseeded to produce a vegetative cover.
The site appears to be stable as it has shown no signs of fire or smoke breakouts for a number of months. Recent temperature readings collected from the previously installed thermal monitoring wells have indicated normal landfill temperatures (approx 110° F). Soon after demobilizing from the site in October, 2003, heavy rain and the lack of a substantial vegetative cover allowed the cover material to begin eroding. Two attempts have been made to repair and stabilize the situation, but additional repair work is necessary and will be conducted when EPA remobilizes in the spring.