Rhode Island Recycled Metals landed on the Providence waterfront with a splash three years ago when it purchased the derelict former Soviet submarine and tourist-attraction Juliett 484 and announced plans to demolish it.
Since then, the company has grown along with the scrap-metal recovery sector in Providence, expanded from five employees to 32, and proposed dredging the waters off its Allens Avenue property near the Interstate 95 entrance ramp to allow shipping.
Now, in addition to the rusted skeleton of the sub, which is still being taken apart, Rhode Island Recycled Metals has its own tangled mountain of scrap to rival Providence’s other major metal yards.
But with growth has come scrutiny.
Since last month, the business has been defending itself against accusations from environmental group Save The Bay that its operation is sending polluted stormwater runoff into the Providence River.
Save The Bay has asked state regulators to close Rhode Island Recycled Metals until it puts in place stormwater-control measures to prevent any chemicals from draining off the site.
Eddie Sciaba III, general manager of the company and son of the owner, says, however, the firm has been working with the state for two years, is “going through the permitting process and [is] in compliance. Everything [Save The Bay] said is just subjective opinion.” Save The Bay has never contacted the company directly about its concerns, Sciaba added.
Rhode Island Recycled Metals bought Juliett 484 in December of 2008 after the sub, parked at Collier Point Park and run as a museum, sank in a 2007 storm.
In August 2009, Rhode Island Recycled Metals secured a permit to break down the sub and had it towed to 434 Allens Avenue, where it has since expanded its metal-recovery operation to include other vessels, cars and assorted metals.
At the heart of Save The Bay’s complaint against Rhode Island Recycled Metals is the allegation that the company is breaking down equipment, including old cars, without the proper drainage system to collect contamination before it can get to the river.
Separately, Save The Bay said heavy equipment, including the treaded crane that picks up and deposits scrap, is damaging a cap meant to seal in old contamination on the property caused by previous users.
Save The Bay also claims floating booms that are supposed to surround the old submarine in the water and prevent contamination from escaping are either not there or washed up on the shore.