Improvements to East Providence’s water system would come with rate increase, quarterly charge

water tower

EAST PROVIDENCE — Department of Public Works Director Steve Coutu gave the City Council another update on the status of East Providence’s drinking water system Tuesday night, March 4, a detailed analysis of needed fixes and the anticipated costs of the improvements.

Mr. Coutu, speaking to the Council about the system for the second week in a row, said the cost of the proposed projects would be approximately $17 million. The improvements include: water main rehabilitation in the Watchemoket District, $6 million; a new transmission main pipeline $4.5 million; a new storage tank at the current Kent Height location $5 million; and a new chlorination station at the Kent Heights site $1.5 million.

To fund the system upgrades, Mr. Coutu said the city would seek money through the Rhode Island Clean Water Authority. The city would pay for the upgrades through an enterprise fund, that cash being derived from an increase in commercial and residential rates as well as the implementation of a flat quarterly fee.

An enterprise fund is one in which money taken in goes directly back into the construction and maintenance of the project. Specifically related to this proposal, the city’s water system is fully funded by water sales and fees to its 15,000 customers.

Though he did not directly quote the percentage of the increase, Mr. Coutu noted the city’s current water rate of $2.85 per HCF (hundred cubic feet) with minimum in advance of $31.66 per quarter for the first 1,111 cubic feet used has not increased since 2008. The added quarterly surcharge, $20 for residential customers, establishes a fixed meter charge.

Councilman Chrissy Rossi holds up a piece of pipe, like that which would be repaired, during a presentation on East Providence's water system at a meeting March 4.

Councilman Chrissy Rossi holds up a piece of pipe, like that which would be repaired, during a presentation on needed improvements to East Providence’s water system at a meeting March 4.

East Providence purchases 1.75 billion gallons of water each year from Providence Water, an average daily consumption of approximately 5.2 million gallons. A significant portion of the funding would go towards improving some of the city’s 205 miles of water mains of varying size and age (some of which are in excess of 100 years old). Those lines link the 15,000 water services and meters, over 900 fire hydrants, and thousands of valves. In recent years, the city has invested over $8 million in pipeline rehabilitation and has improved over 17 miles of pipeline. However, there remains a need to repair some 95 miles of older cast iron pipe in other areas.

The new chlorination station would reduce the amount of the chemical in the water and help remove harmful DBPs (Disinfection Byproduct Concentrations) in the system. DBPs are created when natural organic matter in the water interacts with chlorine. Since 2005 the City has been required by the state Department of Health to add Chlorine to the drinking water following a boil water order due to the presence of fecal coliform bacteria detected through routine sampling.

In addition, Mr. Coutu suggested the city should look into changing the source of its water system from Providence to the Pawtucket Water Interconnection.

A preliminary design has been completed for new water main connection with Pawtucket to serve East Providence and the Bristol County Water Authority (BCWA), which serves the rest of the East Bay. The project’s cost is estimated at $27 million, which would be shared by the state, East Providence, the BCWA and Pawtucket. E.P.’s share would be approximately $8 million.

The Fiscal Year 2015 state budget bill being considered by the General Assembly includes a $13.5 million water supply bond for the project. It needs both legislative and voter approval.

Mr. Coutu’s presentation also included some other interesting historical tidbits.

Prior to 1970, the City’s drinking water was supplied by the Turner Reservoir and four wells along the reservoir property. The water received basic treatment at the Hunts Mills Water Treatment Facility. Water pollution caused by industrial discharges and runoff into the Ten Mile River upstream of the Turner Reservoir, rendered the reservoir unsuitable for drinking water supply.

In 1970, after years of planning and construction, East Providence connected to the Providence Water System which is supplied by the Scituate Reservoir.

About the Kent Heights storage tanks, the one-million gallon standpipe was built in 1997 and the eight-million gallon tank built was in the mid 1960s

To read the update Mr. Coutu provided to the Council click here…

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3 Comments

  1. Tony Ruben said:

    And here’s goes another tax increase hiding as a “fee.” These people just don’t get it. First, the sewer fee goes up, now they want to raise the water rate. They’re looking to put Red light cameras in, tax, tax, tax. If they could figure out some way to tax the air we breathe, I think they would do that too. Meanwhile, the schools continue to get warnings and the potholes continue to get larger. Where does all this money go? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  2. Tony Ruben said:

    Here’s a suggestion: How about if the city uses the 8.9 million in the “Rainy Day Fund” to fix the water system? Get it? “Rainy day” = water!
    Oh, that’s right, we can’t touch that money until the council or the city manager really screws the pooch and blows out the budget. Notice I said until, not if. Only a matter of time. Unfortunately, the way things are going, it looks like they’ll be less taxpayers and less businesses to shoulder the increased tax burden. Maybe Mr. Lemont will try for another 14% tax increase one day.

  3. dno said:

    How will this be funded? There are no mentions of looking for cuts within the water department or city government. Nor are there mentions of the water department saving up for the improvements. Their answer is get money from taxpayers and increase what the citizens already pay. And it will be paid for via a bond which means citizens must pay for the interest on the loan, plus it will be unionized labor which adds a substantial cost. Typical government way of doing business. Thanks again for looking out for the taxpayers.

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