PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) today awarded $4.7 million in matching grants to 15 municipalities for wastewater treatment facility resilience projects. The grants will fund 18 projects and $10.5M of total construction costs across the state that protect publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities from storm surge, winds, and other natural hazards that are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change. Funding is provided through the 2018 Green Economy and Clean Water Bond, which Rhode Island voters approved by a margin of almost 80 percent.
"We're pleased to award these resiliency grants from the Clean Water Bond to wastewater treatment plants across Rhode Island," said Governor Gina Raimondo. "It's important to strengthen our state of preparedness by protecting these critical facilities from the ravages of climate change."
With last week marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, DEM is reflecting on the progress Rhode Island has made in protecting our state's natural resources – from beautiful Narragansett Bay to our local waters and green spaces to the air we breathe. Since 1970, efforts to improve water and air quality, clean up contaminated lands, and conserve open space have greatly enhanced the quality of life for Rhode Islanders. Our state's wastewater system plays a critical role in reducing water pollution and protecting public health. Over the past five decades, improvements in wastewater collection, industrial pretreatment and wastewater treatment, along with recent efforts to protect our facilities from the impacts of climate change, have reduced risks to public health and aquatic life and brought quality of life and economic benefits to Rhode Islanders. The grants awarded today continue the progress we have made in the past 50 years.
"Unfortunately, some Rhode Islanders have become acutely aware of the importance of effective wastewater treatment lately, as sewer systems have clogged or even backed up due to inappropriate flushing of wipes," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Making sure our wastewater treatment facilities continue to perform their critical role protecting public health is central to DEM's mission – and has led to dramatic improvements to the quality of our waterways. Threats from sea level rise and more frequent intense storms due to climate change must be addressed and mitigated to ensure we don't lose ground."
Director Coit added that the genesis of these grants goes as far back as 10 years ago when extreme rains caused historic flooding in Rhode Island, especially of the Pawtuxet, Pawcatuck, and Blackstone Rivers. Those floods completely inundated the West Warwick and Warwick wastewater treatment facilities, partially flooded the Cranston wastewater facility, and idled collection system pumping stations around the state. Since that time, DEM has issued a report on the impacts of climate change on the state's major wastewater systems, developed guidance for factoring climate change into future wastewater infrastructure plans and designs, and required communities to further study climate impacts on their systems as part of regularly occurring discharge permit renewals. The grants awarded today continue the state's efforts to assist and advance efforts to protect Rhode Island's vital wastewater infrastructure.
Statewide, there are 19 wastewater treatment facilities that treat some 120 million gallons of sewage produced every day within Rhode Island. These highly technical and costly systems--which treat and remove pollutants from wastewater--serve as protective barriers for our state's waters, which is especially important for public health, recreation, and our economy. Designed to take advantage of gravity, many wastewater facilities and associated pump stations are at risk of inundation due to their location at low elevations, often in riverine or coastal floodplains.
DEM and the Infrastructure Bank have entered into a unique partnership that will allow these bond funds to be disbursed to the grantees faster and easier than the normal state reimbursement process. Also, the Bank is providing financing for some of the grantees' match, especially the largest awards.
"Wastewater systems treat millions of gallons of water preventing harmful contaminants from entering our rivers and the bay," said Infrastructure Bank CEO Jeffrey Diehl. "The resiliency grants will infuse millions of dollars into the economy to support jobs and help municipalities take proactive steps to upgrade critical infrastructure to increase its resilience to hazards such as sea level rise and extreme weather events."
Applications were evaluated and scored by a committee consisting of members of DEM and RIIB.
The grants being awarded today include:
Barrington/Warren (Joint Application), $130,000 Acquire emergency generators for use within their respective collection systems, which will help these communities maintain sewer conveyance during power outages
Bristol: Ferry Road Pump Station Improvements, $155,000 Protect components of the Ferry Road pump station from flooding and install standby power systems in the event of area power outages
Bristol: Fortifying Emergency Pumping Capabilities, $87,500 Acquire mobile bypass pumping systems for deployment when collection system elements sustain damage
Bristol: Compost Facility Generator, $216,500 Acquire and install an emergency generator to ensure continued sludge treatment operations during area-wide power outages
Burrillville: Oakland Pump Station Resiliency Improvements, $245,000 Various upgrades and flood-proofing projects to protect the Oakland pumping station from the effects of high flows and flooding
Cranston: Hardening Various Pump Stations, $50,000 Install flood-protection upgrades to the Youlden, Worthington, and Pontiac pumping stations, all of which experienced flooding in the 2010 floods
East Greenwich: WWTF Hardening & Relocation Projects, $191,305 Pumping station and treatment plant upgrades to protect key systems from flooding
East Providence: Silver Street Pump Station Floodproofing, $25,000 Upgrade the Silver Street pumping station and relocate a generator fuel tank for protection from flooding
Narragansett: Outfall Restoration, $625,000 Upgrade the Scarborough wastewater facilities outfall to better protect it from forces of more intense coastal storms
New Shoreham: Ocean Avenue Pump Stations #1 & #2 Flood Protection, $229,550 Upgrade two of New Shoreham's sewage pumping stations and electrical components for protection from flooding
Newport: Long Wharf Pump Station Flood Protection, $248,500 Upgrade the city's largest sewage pumping station and its electrical components for protection from flooding
Quonset Development Corporation (HDC): Various Hardening/Redundancy Projects, $245,000 Improvements enabling the QDC to handle high flows and protect vulnerable components of Quonset Point's sewage collection system and mobile pumping and bypass systems, strengthen a compromised sewer line main, and provide additional pumping capacity
Smithfield: WWTF Grit Removal System, $475,000 Construct a grit-removal system to protect the wastewater treatment facility from sand and other inorganics commonly associated with elevated collection system flows, most especially during intense rainfalls
South Kingstown: Middlebridge Pump Station Hardening, $19,475 Upgrades to protect the Middlebridge pumping station from flooding due to coastal storm surge events
Warren: Wood Street Pump Station Resiliency Improvements $250,000 Install flood-proof pumps and elevate/improve electrical and piping components to protect the station from storm-related flooding
Westerly: New Canal Street Pump Station Flood Retaining Wall, $249,550 Construct a flood barrier to protect the New Canal Street pumping station during periods of area flooding
Westerly: Vortex Grit Chamber Redundancy, $1,026,948 Improvements to the Westerly Wastewater Treatment Facility headworks to improve hydraulic capacity and grit removal
Woonsocket: WWTF Building Hardening, $40,500 Improvements to protect structures within Woonsocket's wastewater treatment plant from flood waters from the Blackstone River
For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.