2015-03-26 / Around Town

Drinking Water Tops DEM’s Meeting

By James Merolla

The precious water we drink. World War III might be fought over it someday, but Aquidneck Island communities are fighting now to improve its quality and sustain its depths. Nine source reservoirs that supply the Newport water system are located in Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Little Compton and Tiverton, and the state does not want them tapped out.

On Tuesday, March 31, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will hold an informational public meeting to discuss an initiative to protect Newport's water at its nine sources. The meeting takes place at 4 p.m. in the lower level of the Newport Public Library, 300 Spring St.

The Source Water Protection Initiative is a DEM effort in conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDH) to restore the quality of Newport water throughout the five county communities.

The effort complements the recent completion of improvements at the Station 1 Water Treatment Plant and the construction of the new Lawton Valley Water Treatment Plant, which included the addition of advanced water treatment processes at both sites.

The new water treatment facilities became operational in summer and fall last year. Since that time, the system’s wholesale and retail customers have seen significant improvements in the quality of water flowing from their taps.

However, although DEM says that the “finished” water has improved, the quality of the raw water feeding into the system has not changed. The nine course reservoirs are nutrient-rich and experience frequent algal cyanobacteria blooms – which DEM says impact aquatic life and the reservoirs’ use for drinking water purposes.

Protection of the source waters is deemed by RIDH as the front line in protecting public health. DEM says it is committed to “working collaboratively with Island communities and organizations in the development of their water quality restoration plans.”

Public input is welcome.

Additional information about the March 31 meeting or the initiative is available by contacting Brian Zalewsky at 401-222-4700, ext. 7145, or via email at brian.zalewski@ dem.ri.gov.

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