Situation Summary Prior To March PIWD Board Meeting

The March 25th PIWD board meeting is open to the public, and will be held on Zoom. The most pressing agenda item ought to be the failure of the cross-connection control program to end coliform contamination of Prudence Island water, and the action taken ought to be to accept help offered by the state to come up with a new solution.

Summarizing an earlier post, over the last few years the Prudence Island Water District (PIWD) has been experiencing microbial contamination of the water supply, the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has demanded “4-log disinfection” or “chlorination” of the water to make it safe, and the PIWD has been refusing. In 2019, RIDOH and the PIWD signed a consent order, allowing the PIWD time to implement its cross-connection control plan (CCCP), and otherwise try to exclude bacteria and microorganisms from the system.

Through the course of 2019 and 2020, additional incidents of coliform bacteria in the water have been detected. These have been attributed to various causes, such as poor sampling processes, issues with the well caps, seals, and casings, or system maintenance. (It occurs to me that it is also possible that we don’t know the exact causes for all of these incidents with certainty.)

In December of 2020 the PIWD announced that it had successfully implemented its CCCP. The department of health has disagreed that the PIWD is in compliance with the consent order, and has again required the PIWD to chlorinate. (Seeing as there is no way that contamination has occurred only due to cross connections, and that positive coliform samples have occurred after cross-connection control was fully implemented, RIDOH’s demands don’t seem particularly unreasonable.)

RIDOH has asked the PIWD to apply for a permit for a chlorination system by Jan 13, 2021, and to have it installed by Nov 1, 2021. (RIDOH has also said that they know this timeframe is unreasonable, that they are willing to grant extensions so long as progress is being made.) RIDOH has offered engineering services through NWSI to assess options and develop engineering designs and specifications, free of charge to the PIWD, and pointed out some of the ways the PIWD may be able to raise the funds for the project.

As of the February, 2021 water board meeting, the PIWD board has yet to publicly show any sign that it is considering installation of a chlorination system. Maybe this is the month!

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