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"Rhode Island airport, state seen settling wetlands dispute"


 
Friday, May 7, 2004
 
Airport, state seen settling wetlands dispute
The Providence (RI) Journal


WARWICK -- After butting heads over apparent violations at T.F. Green
Airport of the laws protecting wetlands and waterways, the state Airport
Corporation and the Department of Environmental Management decided to make
peace yesterday.

The Airport Corporation, cited last year for altering wetlands, cutting
trees without a permit and discharging aircraft deicer into Buckeye Brook,
dropped its appeal of the findings yesterday, just as a DEM hearing officer
was scheduled to hear testimony.

Within a few weeks, the two agencies are expected to sign a consent
agreement outlining the steps the corporation will take to restore and
manage wetlands on its property.

The DEM had issued notices of violation and a $2,600 fine for unlicensed
discharges of aircraft deicer and work done in wetlands without permits from
2001 to 2003.

The agency alleged that the corporation had altered wetlands without a
permit when it rebuilt the Buckeye Brook culvert under Airport Road, in
2002. The brook sustains an annual run of several species of herring.

After wintering in the Atlantic, the fish return to the brook via
Narragansett Bay, seeking to reach spawning grounds in Warwick Pond and
Spring Green Pond.

The DEM issued notices of violation for cutting trees and shrubs on about a
quarter-acre of airport wetlands without a permit, and for allowing
propylene glycol, an aircraft deicer, to flow into the brook from airport
storm drains.

The corporation said it thought a general wetlands alteration permit the DEM
issued in 2000 covered the work it did two years later on the Airport Road
culvert. It also said it thought it had verbal permission from the agency to
cut trees in the approach zone to Runway 34, a wetlands area.

Since being cited for the deicer discharge, the corporation has applied for
a permit that would regulate and monitor water quality in the brook.

Since 1999, crews at Green have adopted measures to recover some of the
deicer sprayed on aircraft before departures. Currently, about a third of
the material is recovered and recycled but the remainder goes into the
environment.

Twice in recent months, the Airport Corporation requested continuances when
its appeal of the DEM's findings came up for testimony. Yesterday, the
hearing officer granted both agencies' request for a continuance and gave
them 14 days to work out the details of a final settlement.

"We're committed to working with DEM on these issues," Patti Goldstein, the
corporation's vice president for public affairs, said yesterday. "We'll
continue to work cooperatively on all environmental issues."

Michelle Komar, a member of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, an advocacy group,
said she was concerned that the consent agreement now being drafted might
forgive the fine and erase many of the remedies DEM had ordered.

"I hope that DEM is no more lenient on RIAC than they would be with any
other operating business in the state," Komar said, "because the cost of
business operations should include environmental protection."


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