Narragansett Bay Commission embarks on final phase of pollution-reducing sewer overflow tunnel project – ecoRI News

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Video and text by BRIAN PD HANNON / ecoRI News staff

PAWTUCKET, RI – The end of a secluded street where heavy construction machinery pounded and scratched sandy terrain under a scorching sun seemed an unlikely location for a rally including members of Congress, state and city politicians and various administrators, organizers and advocates.

Yet the June 18 groundbreaking ceremony hosted by the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) marked the opening of the final phase of the largest public works project ever undertaken in Rhode Island, and possibly the project’s last public appearance. for some time as work for the benefit of the surface estuary is heading underground.

The inauguration in the presence of 100 guests officially opened the third stage of the Combined Sewer Overflow Project (CSO), known as “RestoredWaters RI”, which is expected to create 1,700 jobs with the aim of improving water quality in Narragansett Bay and its watershed and subsequently improving sanitary and environmental conditions .

NBC Chairman Vincent Mesolella said the eventual completion of the Phase Three tunnel will be followed by the construction of a park to benefit residents of East Providence, Central Falls and Pawtucket with cycle paths, views of the estuary and recreational and educational areas.

“Citizens will certainly see the benefits of this project, both environmentally and economically,” said Mesolella.

NBC operates Rhode Island’s two largest wastewater treatment facilities, Fields Point in Providence and Bucklin Point in East Providence, which together treat more than 30 billion gallons of wastewater per year. Combination sewerage systems can treat sewage and storm water during heavy rains. The new CSO tunnel starting at Pawtucket will run for 2.2 miles and provide a 65 million gallon capacity to hold water and sewage resulting from overflows in inclement weather until the liquid can be processed.

“It will hold back sewage overflows from the storms currently flowing into the Seekonk and Blackstone rivers,” NBC director of public affairs Jamie Samons said of the tunnel from much of School Street.

“It will greatly improve the quality of the water in these rivers, make the communities safer and healthier and it will also have effects on the bay,” she said.

The CSO project began with the approval in 1993 of three “deep rock” tunnels and seven underground storage facilities at a cost of nearly $ 470 million. The final phase of the project is expected to cost $ 836 million and be completed by 2027. Additional elements of Phase III, such as an interception gate and filter structure, will continue until 2041.

The company is the result of a consent agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to address sewage overflows related to storms entering Narragansett Bay in violation of federal law of 1972. Water purification law.

The first phase of construction, completed in 2008, consisted of a tunnel and support facilities capable of diverting 1.1 billion gallons of water and wastewater to the Fields Point plant rather than flowing directly into the bay. by Narragansett. The second phase concluded in 2014 reduced discharges from 17 sewer overflows in the bay’s watershed.

Samons said employees call RestoredWaters RI’s underground tunnels “the biggest projects you’ll ever see.” Benefits are expected to include reopening shellfish fishing grounds and restored public spaces, such as a new beach in Sabin Point Waterfront Park along the Providence River in East Providence.

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