RI DEM lifts no-contact notice for Blackstone River following ‘substantial’ sewage leak
Woonsocket owns the plant but contracts with Jacobs, a Texas-based consulting and engineering firm, for its day-to-day operations, and Baltimore-based Synagro Technologies Inc., for the plant’s sludge treatment systems. ‘facility. DEM issued its no-contact notices after Jacobs informed the state that the treatment process had been halted and solid waste was no longer being separated before the sewage discharge.
DEM asked the city and its suppliers to increase sampling and testing in the Blackstone River upstream and downstream of the facility to monitor environmental impacts. Woonsocket could face fines of up to $25,000 per day for each day of the notice.
“This has been an active investigation from the start,” RI DEM spokesman Jay Wegimont told The Globe on Friday. “I would say there are normally penalties when evaluating this stuff. They work on it every day, testing several times a day, making sure the river is safe and continuing to investigate to find out what needs to be assessed.
According to a press release from DEM, the city and its contractors have installed additional solids disposal equipment. The sewage treatment facility has made further improvements that have allowed the facility to consistently meet its permit limits over the past few days. Improving water quality readings led DEM to immediately lift the no-contact advisory.
Wegimont said the newly installed equipment will allow the plant to remain in compliance, and DEM is observing the steps taken by the city and its suppliers to ensure they remain in compliance with permits.
“There will be a follow-up investigation,” he said.
John Marsland, chairman of the Blackstone River Watershed Council and Friends of the Blackstone, which represents the environmental interests of the Blackstone River and its catchment area, says he is delighted the river has reopened for recreation. They have a number of events planned this summer, including an invading water chestnut pull next weekend.
But, he said on Friday, he fears the recent state of the river could affect the participation of volunteers in this vital event.
“I don’t know how many people are going to show up because of the notice, if they knew about it or if it would put them off,” Marsland said. “It’s only a week away. Whoever shows up, we’ll be happy with whoever is there.
Marsland said the city’s surface water manager told local water quality partners the advisory was lifted after the sewage treatment plant ran well for a week.
“The water met his needs for a week and it satisfied them,” Marsland said. “But that doesn’t solve the long-term problem.”