NORTH SMITHFIELD – Homes along Old Great Road and Mechanic Street will soon be connected to the town water system thanks to funding from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, finally bringing relief to residents in the area who have long relied on bottled water.
Members of the North Smithfield Town Council voted unanimously on Monday, March 30 to accept an additional $400,000 from RIIB to help finance a water line extension slated to connect more than 30 homes to the Slatersville Public Water Supply.
Town voters authorized $1 million in spending for the project in a 2018 bond, and RIIB had committed to provide $450,000 in principal debt forgiveness, cutting the cost to taxpayers roughly in half.
But bids put out in February came in higher than the estimated cost.
Now, the bank has offered to forgive an additional $400,000 to ensure the project gets done.
“It’s the only way that this project can move forward,” Town Administrator Gary Ezovski told council members during their first-ever virtual board meeting on Monday.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management first discovered trouble in the area in 2004, when testing showed that three wells on Mechanic Street had contaminants beyond drinking water standards. A well survey conducted by the town in 2015 uncovered an additional contaminated well on the road.
Soon after, the same pollutants – man-made volatile organics – were found in wells in neighboring Millville, Mass., triggering involvement from the Environmental Protection Agency. And in 2016, tests conducted by the EPA revealed contaminants beyond the legal limit for drinking at two wells on Old Great Road.
But despite several investigations by state and federal authorities, the source of the contamination has never been determined.
Last June, engineering firm James Geremia and Associates was hired to begin preliminary work on the project, and earlier this year, construction went out to bid.
Responses from all four bidding companies came in well over $1 million.
“With the bid numbers in hand I went back to RIIB to see if further assistance was possible,” Ezovski said.
In a letter to the administrator dated March 4, RIIB Managing Director Michael Baer said the amount lent to the town will total $1,368,000, with $850,000 forgiven. The remaining amount, just over $500,000, will be paid back over 20 years.
“The infrastructure bank obviously has extended every courtesy to us,” Ezovski said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this at all.”
The project will add more than 30 homes to the Slatersville Public Water Supply system, with construction expected to begin this year. Water lines that currently end at High View Ave and Mechanic Street are set to be extended 2,400 feet north, and then onto Old Great Road to the Massachusetts state line.