EPA Works with Two R.I. Communities to Improve Water Quality

BOSTON MA (12/13/2016) - Two recent administrative consent orders between EPA and the Towns of Johnston R.I. and North Providence, R.I. will result in cleaner water and improved environmental conditions, resulting from the requirement that the towns identify and eliminate the causes of sewage overflows from their collection systems.

In Johnston, based on reports received from the RI Dept. of Environmental Management (RIDEM), EPA had reason to believe that overflows were occurring from point sources in Johnston's sewage collection system and entering waters protected under the federal Clean Water Act. In May, 2016, EPA issued an information request to the Town requiring that it submit information regarding past overflows, pump station failures, and to report overflows to EPA and the RIDEM in an ongoing manner in the future.

As EPA believed that Johnston needed to take additional actions regarding its sewer collection system to prevent future CWA violations, EPA has entered into an "Administrative Order on Consent" with the Town requiring that it develop plan to address the underlying causes of sewage overflows, including a pump station condition assessment and conduct necessary repairs and take other actions to address deficiencies in its collection system. Its progress implementing these improvements are to be reported to the EPA and RIDEM in annual reports.

In North Providence, EPA had previously issued an Administrative Order to the Town requiring that it develop and implement a corrective action to address basement backups. In addition, EPA had required that the town respond to several information requests requiring additional information regarding sewage overflows. To ensure that the Town is taking sufficient action, EPA recently entered into an Administrative Order on Consent with the Town that consolidates the requirements of the previous order and the information requests and also requires that the Town evaluate the results of the actions that it has taken to date to address sewage overflows. As with Johnston, North Providence’s progress implementing the new order are to be reported to the EPA and RIDEM in annual reports.

"In Rhode Island and across New England, EPA is committed to working with our state partners and local communities to improve water quality and ensure that our communities can enjoy a healthy environment," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "A clean and healthy environment is the basis for vibrant communities and a strong economy, and it's worth our collective efforts to protect that."

EPA has taken a number of similar actions throughout New England to address sewage overflows. When these overflows occur, raw sewage can enter surface waters or be discharged to streets or private property, where it poses a public health risk. Sewage overflows to "waters of the United States" are not allowed under the Clean Water Act, and can be caused by a combination of factors, including failures of the system of pipes, pumps and other equipment that municipalities use to collect and transport sewage to wastewater treatment plants, grease and other blockages, such as from disposable wipes and tree roots, or from excess flows entering the collection system. Implementation of effective preventive maintenance programs have been shown to eliminate or significantly reduce the frequency and volume of these discharges.

Contact Information: EPA Public Affairs 617-918-1010