The Lonsdale Bleachery Site consists of two separate properties on 0 Carrington Street in Lincoln, Providence County, Rhode Island. It abuts the Blackstone River, a National Heritage River, which flows into Narragansett Bay. The location of concern formally contained heating oil that was stored in three large underground concrete bunkers and above ground storage tanks (ASTs) adjacent to the river. Once a thriving 19th century textile and bleachery mill complex, the area was subdivided into 29 different parcels after the mill closed approximately 50 years ago, and is now comprised of several small industrial, commercial, and retail buildings.
In 1982, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) responded to a release of oil to the Blackstone River from the site. Under RIDEM oversight, the previous owner of Parcel 96 excavated some oil-contaminated soils from a small area upriver of the oil bunkers and installed and irregularly operated a drain/recovery well system during the 1980s. On July 30, 2004, an emergency response was conducted by RIDEM in response to a petroleum odor and sheen that was observed downstream on the Blackstone River. The former Lonsdale Bleachery was investigated as the possible source of the sheen. RIDEM discovered oil seeping into the river from the Site. At the request of RIDEM, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mobilized to the scene of the oil spill on August 5, 2004 to respond to the release and on August 10, 2005, EPA mobilized to the Site to begin cleanup activities that included: demolition of three underground concrete fuel oil storage bunkers and associated piping that contained heavy crude oil; demolition and removal of above ground tanks; excavation and disposal of oil-saturated soils to the water table; and the recovery of 1,280,000 gallons of oil and oily water. Approximately 10,000 gallons of pure oil and the most heavily contaminated oily water were collected with a vac truck and shipped off-site for treatment and recycling. The remaining 1,270,000 gallons of oily water was treated with a mobile treatment system and discharged on-site.
Prior to the cleanup, between September 2004 and November 2005, EPA installed soil borings, monitoring wells, and conducted sampling activities as part of a Site environmental investigation. Samples of oil and oil-contaminated soils were analyzed and no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected.
In 2007, a visible sheen reappeared in the river downstream from the site. In response to this observation, RIDEM implemented a booming strategy as an interim action to contain observable oil discharges until further investigations could be completed. On June 8, 2011, RIDEM and EPA conducted further site investigations, which included additional soil borings to assess the leaking of oil that was creating a sheen on the Blackstone River. Oil was observed seeping into the river, particularly during periods of low water levels, from the base of a granite block retaining wall in the former fuel storage area of the mill. Based on these findings, EPA concluded that the earlier cleanup had reduced the magnitude of oil discharges to the river, but additional cleanup actions are necessary to fully stop the on-going river discharges. In 2013, EPA took over the operation of the booming strategy from RIDEM while continuing to evaluate alternatives for a final site cleanup. Alternative cleanup methods assessed included: naturally allowing nature to clean up the oil; using plants and bacteria that break down the oil; and in-place thermal treatment, which involves heating the ground to temperatures that would break down the oil. In 2017, EPA completed its evaluation and determined that a targeted excavation of oil-saturated soils and contaminated soil/sediments along the shoreline was the best option to stop oil discharges.
Beginning in August 2020, EPA will start efforts to mitigate on-going river discharges. The work is expected to take two years and will address contaminated soil at depth within the upland portion of the Site.
NEXT STEPS/WHAT TO EXPECT
In the Summer of 2021, EPA will address oil contaminated soil/sediments along the shoreline, work which is expected to last until October 2021. Specific actions for both site properties include bringing in personnel and heavy equipment, excavating the ground to reach the oil, removing oily soils, treatment of oily water and back-filling the excavations with clean fill.