BURRILLVILLE – The pumps that have supplied the village of Oakland with water for more than 60 years will be shut down this month with all residents of the area officially tied into the Harrisville water system.

The tie-in project between the two villages, which began in April, is nearly complete, and residents are covering the costs for plumbing to connect to the new system.

The effort was needed to address contamination of water caused by firefighting foams used by the Oakland Mapleville Fire Department according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

The Oakland Association recently notified residents that pumps providing water to their homes will be turned off within the next four weeks.

“This shut down of the water system is estimated to be next month (3rd or 4th week November 2019,)” the association said in a notice to residents.

The $2 million line extension project was completed by D’Ambra Construction and funded through a loan from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank to the Harrisville Fire District. It has brought relief to Burrillville residents who were advised to stop drinking their water in October of 2017, when man-made contaminants were discovered.

The contamination affected some 55 families and six private well owners once served by the the Oakland Association. Since the discovery, residents have relied on the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to deliver jugs of water, for food preparation, cooking, brushing teeth and drinking. repaving to be done in spring of 2020.

RIDEM pointed to issue in vowing to help departments statewide get rid of the chemicals that caused the problem, used to fight fires prior to 2003, in a release this week.

“Aqueous film-forming foams made before 2003 contain certain per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances that have the potential to move through the environment and contaminate groundwater and drinking water sources, and therefore require proper removal and disposal,” noted the release.

RIDEM is now reaching out to fire departments across Rhode Island to assist with the removal and disposal of “legacy” foams, pointing to the threat to water supplies and public health.

“DEM is committed to protecting Rhode Island’s water resources and drinking water supplies from contamination by the toxic compounds found in fire-fighting foam, and we look forward to working with local fire departments through this new initiative,” said Coit. “If not properly disposed of, this material poses a serious threat to the health and safety of our environment. We need to look no further than the Oakland-Mapleville Water District in Burrillville, where drinking water supplies were contaminated by fire-fighting foam that wasn’t disposed of the right way.”

Although individual fire departments are responsible for removal and disposal costs, DEM will streamline the pick-up of the materials if needed. This fall, DEM sent letters to all Rhode Island fire departments to make them aware of the program.

Manufacturers stopped making the suspect foams in 2002 and have since developed formulations of AFFF with different types of PFAS that they believe have less of an impact on the environment. However, the environmental and health impacts from exposure to these other PFAS compounds have not been fully investigated.

In September, one family that lives two houses down from the Oakland Mapleville Fire Department questioned if the contamination had caused their entire family – including pets – to become ill.

DEM has advised fire departments that the materials need to be stored properly; best management practices include storing containers of AFFF in containment areas and away from drains. In addition, DEM has recommended that fire departments use safer training foams that do not contain PFAS for training exercises and limit the use of AFFF to actual fire incidents.

DEM has asked all Rhode Island fire departments to either take steps on their own to ensure proper disposal of legacy foams or email James.ball@dem.ri.gov for assistance with pick up. Those who require more information or have questions are advised to call Jim Ball, chief of DEM’s Office of Emergency Response at 222-4700, ext. 7129.

For residents of Oakland, plumbing costs to tie in to the new service have reportedly run between $500 and $1,200 including valves, pressure reducers, expansion tanks and piping.

Residents in the area who have not yet had a meter for Harrisville water installed should call 568-2224.

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