An opportunity to reduce sewage pollution of the Bay
On Nov. 13, 2013, the Warwick City Council will vote on two ordinances that will, over time, dramatically reduce Warwick’s pollution of Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay strongly supports approval of both ordinances.
The first is for $23 million in revenue bonds for upgrades to the Warwick wastewater treatment plant and for construction of a levee to protect the plant from flooding from the Pawtuxet River. The upgrades will reduce nutrient loadings to the Pawtuxet River and to Narragansett Bay by removing phosphorus and nitrogen. These nutrients cause low oxygen conditions that result in events like the Greenwich Bay fish kill of 2003.
The second ordinance is for $33 million in sewer system revenue bonds to expand the collection system and to extend sewer lines into six new areas of the city. These critical steps in Bay cleanup are long overdue.
The summer of 2013 will be remembered for a rash of beach closures in Greenwich Bay. It was a wakeup call to finally tackle the difficult, but essential, challenge of eliminating cesspools and outdated septic systems in the city of Warwick.
The Warwick wastewater treatment plant is an award-winning facility. It treats sewage to a higher standard than even the most advanced septic systems and far more than cesspools, which are simply tanks that funnel sewage into the ground and groundwater. The environmental benefits of centralized wastewater treatment are augmented by the economic benefits to homeowners and businesses in the form of higher property values and reliable service.
Extending sewer lines and connecting homes and businesses to those lines costs money, and it is true that the long delays in tackling this challenge have added to the cost. City residents are rightfully concerned about the financial impact on homeowners. It is, therefore, imperative that the city plans and implements these projects in a fair and transparent manner. It is also important that city planners, engineers and departments work closely together to prevent and avoid unnecessary costs.
Save The Bay has been a member of the Warwick Sewer Authority Review Commission and is grateful for this opportunity to work with city leaders on the issue of wastewater management. Going forward, the City Council, in coordination with the Warwick Sewer Authority, is going to have to take a hard look at how to sustain the city’s investment in its wastewater infrastructure on an equitable basis. The city is now well positioned to take up those questions because of the work of the Commission. Save The Bay will continue to support the work of the Commission.
With 39 miles of coastline, Warwick has long celebrated its connection to Narragansett Bay and has made significant efforts to protect and restore its water quality. Communities that value their sense of place on Narragansett Bay are stepping up and making major investments in wastewater treatment infrastructure. Ratepayers in Providence and the eight other Narragansett Bay Commission communities have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce combined sewage overflows, reduce nitrogen and phosphorus discharges, and complete facility upgrades.
The Warwick City Council has the opportunity to jump-start the long-overdue work of reducing sewage pollution flowing into Greenwich Bay and Narragansett Bay. We support a “yes” vote on both ordinances and encourage Warwick residents to do the same.
Jonathan Stone is Executive Director of Save the Bay.