2013-10-31 / Around Town

Yes, the Water Does Taste Better

By Tom Shevlin

It was a brief and off-hand remark made during what turned out to be a lengthy meeting dominated by debate over an existing lease arrangement between the city and the Newport Yacht Club.

But when Councilwoman Naomi Neville made reference to the noticeable difference in taste of the water pouring out of her faucet at home, several of her fellow councilors nodded their heads in agreements.

“I don’t know if it’s just my water,” Neville said, but over the last several weeks, she added, there seems to have been a real improvement in the quality of water being delivered to her Fifth Ward home.

Her sentiments have been shared by a number of other Newport water customers, all of whom agree – at least anecdotally – that the upgrades to the city’s water treatment plants appears to be finally paying off.

That perception, according to Director of Utilities Julia Forgue, is not without merit.

According to Forgue, since the first phase of the water division’s new high-tech treatment process went online in June, the results have been “phenomenal.”

“It’s been beyond our expectations,” Forgue said. “We’re still getting used to the treatment process, but the water coming out of Station 1 has been remarkably better than before.”

According to Forgue, the new drinking water treatment processes at the upgraded Station No. 1 Water Treatment Plant, located at 100 Bliss Mine Rd., Newport, went online on May 30, just as the high season was starting.

The focus of the upgraded treatment process is a new clarification process called Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF), which removes naturally occurring matter from the city’s reservoir system, prior to filtration. Other upgrades at the water treatment plant include new chemical feed systems, new control systems, and other building and architectural improvements.

Originally designed to treat nine million gallons of water each day, the aged Station 1 was only able to reliably treat six million gallons per day before the improvements were complete.

The first phase upgrades have restored the treatment capacity back to nine million gallons per day, and still more improvements are underway.

It’s all part of the city’s ambitious $67 million design-build project to upgrade its network of water treatment plants scattered across Aquidneck Island.

And even though it’s still early in the project, and while the city’s water is admittedly “rough” when it enters the system, according to Forgue there’s plenty of reason for optimism.

Currently, customers throughout Newport and in the southern end of Middletown are receiving water from Station 1. The remainder of the district, is still on the old system and should be brought online as soon as the project allows.

In her latest update posted to the city’s website, Forgue reported that work is moving at a bee’s pace.

After months of site preparation at the Lawton Valley Water Treatment Plant site, the new facilities began to take shape above ground earlier in September. There, the DAF equipment is on-site and being installed while progress is also being seen with the erection of the elevated water storage tank and adjacent recycle tank.

And just like at Station 1, water flowing from that site will also soon be too good not to drink.

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