Warren debates water discharge ban

Town council members send plan to traffic commission, pass first reading

By Ted Hayes
Posted 2/21/20

The Warren Town Council has passed the first reading of a plan to restrict residents’ draining of water onto public streets, in the cases when draining creates a public safety hazard.

Warren …

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Warren debates water discharge ban

Town council members send plan to traffic commission, pass first reading

Posted

The Warren Town Council has passed the first reading of a plan to restrict residents’ draining of water onto public streets, in the cases when draining creates a public safety hazard.

Warren Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto told the council when the ordinance was introduced in January that many other towns have enacted similar bans, and they are of particular import when water is drained in colder months due to the possibility of ice sheets forming on public streets.

“There are communities, like Barrington, that have an absolute ban on any discharge onto a public street,” he said. “The question here is what from a policy standpoint is more important? If there’s ice and then someone’s injured because of that, the homeowner won’t be sued, but the town will.”

Councilors seemed wary of the plan in January, saying that legislating away residents’ rights to drain their properties in the case of emergencies could do more harm than good.

“I’m not comfortable with this,” said councilor Joseph DePasquale. “If there is water in their house, what are they supposed to do? I’m glad we’ll still be collecting taxes while we’re creating a puddle in their basement. I will not be voting in favor of the town creating a hardship”

“You can’t fix one of your problems by creating problems for other people,” added councilor John Hanley.

But at the February meeting, councilors voted to move the ordinance on after all, after a small but significant change in the wording — members voted to remove the word “town” from several sections that dictate which streets are subject to the ordinance’s overview.

Under the proposed ordinance, not all water discharge onto streets would be considered a violation. Mr. DeSisto said the ordinance as written presents a “compromise” as it leaves the discretion of whether a discharge creates a safety hazard up to the director of the Public Works Department.

The council’s vote means the ordinance will come back for a second reading in March. In the meantime, the council voted to send it to the state traffic commission, so commission members can provide a definitiation of what dictates a “hazardous” condition.

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