Letter: It’s time to move on from old water supplies

Posted 5/25/19

To the editor:Thank you for your continuing coverage of the East Bay pipeline leak and being an important information resource.

Our letter is in response to your 5/16 editorial: "A water crisis …

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Letter: It’s time to move on from old water supplies

Posted

To the editor:
Thank you for your continuing coverage of the East Bay pipeline leak and being an important information resource.

Our letter is in response to your 5/16 editorial: "A water crisis years in the making."

As a water utility, our foremost priority is to provide reliable, high-quality, and ample water to all Bristol, Barrington, and Warren residents and businesses. It is this very priority that prompted the installation of the East Bay pipeline, also supported by the majority of tri-town voters. BCWA’s existing water supply sources and treatment plant were becoming (some say already were) unreliable.

While the water sources and treatment plant have been maintained as a secondary supply up until this year (the treatment plant was decommissioned in January because deterioration has made it unsafe), it is not – and was not for the past 30 years – a viable water supply. These are the reasons:

· BCWA does not own the Massachusetts water supplies. The Swansea Reservoir and Shad Factory water supplies are owned by the state of Mass, which controls the watershed and now severely limits the amount of water that can be withdrawn. Supplemental supply from the Barrington wells is no longer available.

· Water is of poor quality. The two Mass supplies are not high-quality water, being overtaken with invasive plant species in the summertime and/or polluted by development. The freshwater Kickemuit supply in Bristol is impacted with saltwater during moon high-tides, which is anticipated to increase with climate change. It is also listed as unsuitable for potable water supply by the RIDEM.

· The treatment plant has been deteriorating for decades. Built in 1908, the plant met the requirements of the time period. There was no conception of the advancements and significant changes in the water quality standards we follow today. Even with continued maintenance and modifications, the plant was not built to, and cannot, meet today’s requirements.

Construction of a new treatment plant was considered, with an approximate cost of $60-$70 million, including supply pipelines and pump station, plus additional operating staff.

This is all for a much higher cost and a lesser quantity and quality of water than a connection to the Providence and Pawtucket water supply boards would bring.

We realize that it is very difficult to give up something that we believe we have “owned” and has truly become part of our collective memory (even nostalgia). We feel that way, too. But more important than our feelings – or anything else – is our responsibility to provide a safe, reliable supply of water to all our customers.

It is with this responsibly in mind that the decision – with the BCWA and tri-town leadership fully aware and in support of – was made to pursue the secondary connection to Pawtucket water. This continues to be, the most effective, efficient, and reliable source for water for our community.

Pamela M. Marchand, P.E.

Ms. Marchand is Executive Director of the Bristol County Water Authority.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.