BURRILLVILLE – A 17.6-acre property on Roosevelt Avenue is the likely location of a new water source for residents in Pascoag and the surrounding area following a purchase this month by the Pascoag Utility District.
PUD bought the lot at 98 Roosevelt Ave., previously owned by the Burrillville Columbus Club, for $199,000, according to a deed recently filed with the Burrillville Town Clerk.
General Manager Michael Kirkwood said that the company has drilled several preliminary wells on the property in hopes to establish a new water supply for its roughly 3,000 customers.
“We found one location that looked like it could be productive,” Kirkwood told NRI NOW. “We don’t know how much output yet.”
Establishing a public water supply on the lot – which lies within the Clear River sub-basin of the Blackstone River Watershed – will require approval from both the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management.
Kirkwood noted that currently, the quasi-municipal utility company purchases most of its water wholesale from the neighboring Harrisville Water District. PUD once relied solely on its own production supply wells to meet water system demand requirements, but began purchasing water from Harrisville in 2001 after gasoline contamination was discovered at two of the company’s main wells.
Talks are underway that could see a merger of the Pascoag and Harrisville entities with creation of the, “Clear River Electric and Water District,” a new utility company that would own and operate the current electric distribution system in both villages, as well as the water production and distribution system in Harrisville, Pascoag and Oakland.
“If for some reason that didn’t happen, we need other water sources,” Kirkwood said.
And even if all goes smoothly with the merger, in the world of water, he noted, it’s good to have redundancy.
“You’re always looking for more water sources,” Kirkwood said, noting that a new well can serve as backup, and provide room for potential growth. “It’s always good practice just to have another source on the horizon.”
Kirkwood said that PUD is still evaluating the potential to drill more than one well on the property. But at more than 17 acres, even the establishment of multiple wells and the accompanying buffer zones on the lot will likely to leave room for open space and recreation, potentially open to residents in collaboration with the town.
“Right now we know we’re going to develop one in one particular area,” Kirkwood said.
The purchase, he noted, was financed with help from an allocation from the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funding, which PUD applied for amid requests in 2021.
“That helped the decision to move forward,” he said.
The former Columbus Club building, a two-story lodge featuring two bathrooms and an 8,000-square-foot kitchen and bar, is slated for demolition. The non-profit listed the property, which includes a 100-space parking lot, for $200,000 in 2020.
“The building’s not salvageable unless you want to spend a huge amount of money,” said Kirkwood, noting that his company will have to remediate asbestos prior to razing the structure. “Kids get in there. It’s a liability. The building is in really rough shape so we’re just going to demolish it.”
Once all preliminary work and testing is complete, Kirkwood notes that establishing a new well will be a relatively quick and quiet process. The company will likely build a well house, similar to structures erected on other PUD-owned properties, to store the equipment used to treat the water and pump it into the larger system.
“Once it’s running, you’ll hardly hear it at all,” he said. “Nobody even knows it’s there usually.”