NORTH SMITHFIELD – An agreement to extend Slatersville Water System lines over the state border into neighboring Millville, Mass. reportedly hit a snag this month after town officials were told they first needed permission from the district’s water supplier: the city of Woonsocket.
The North Smithfield Town Council signed an agreement authorizing extension of the lines to three homes with contaminated wells at 3, 19 and 25 Providence Street in Millville back in May. The extension is being financed and implemented by Philips North America as part of a settlement agreement over water contamination in the area also affecting homes along Mechanic Street and Old Great Road in North Smithfield.
Philips moved forward with the project, extending an 8-inch water main line approximately 750 feet from its current end at Old Great Road into Massachusetts, following the council vote earlier this year. The lines – a result of a coordinated effort by the town with environmental authorities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the federal government – just needed to be flushed and sanitized before providing a permanent solution for the Millville residents.
That’s when North Smithfield Water and Sewer Supt. William Descoteaux got a call from Woonsocket water officials.
“We just didn’t bring Woonsocket into the equation,” said Councilor John Beauregard.
The Slatersville Water System currently serves some 520 homes in North Smithfield with water purchased under a wholesale agreement with the neighboring city. Service is governed by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, so although the contract technically expired in 2016, the inter-municipal arrangement continues under the terms of a prior agreement.
The town is allowed to extend the system to additional homes in North Smithfield under the arrangement, as long as it stays under the previously established water limit.
But at least according to city officials, extension into another state is a different story.
“Woonsocket is requiring we make formal request and that we provide them with an engineering plan,” said Beauregard. “In theory, they’re not opposed to the idea. There’s a process that has to take place in order for that to happen.”
Now, it seems the project is at least temporarily on hold with city officials saying they must approve the request.
The news comes amid efforts to further extend water lines – and agreements between the two communities – to serve the Route 146 corridor. The Woonsocket City Council passed a resolution last month in support of the proposed extension, aimed at bolstering economic development in the area, but a formal agreement must still be reached.
Meanwhile, Millville residents must continue the wait for a final solution to a problem that began with the discovery of Trichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene and Freon 113 in their wells in 2015. The project affects two four-family condominiums as well as a single-family home and has involved input from both the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Departments of Environmental Management, as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency, along with years of discussion and a legal settlement with the company deemed, “potentially responsible.”
Polytop, a second company deemed potentially responsible by environmental authorities, has been fighting the claim.
Philips conducted metals plating and branding at a 35-acre parcel on Industrial Drive in North Smithfield between 1977 and 1990, and has been voluntarily working on the two-state solution. Under the settlement signed in May, the company is also providing the town of North Smithfield $260,000, to connect additional homes on Mechanic Street and Old Great Road to the municipal water system.
On Monday, Nov. 6, Philips joined the town officials in requesting approval of the extension into Millville from the Woonsocket City Council, but no vote was taken.
Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski said he’s confident the project will move forward.
“We actually have a great relationship with Woonsocket,” Zwolenski said. “The city is very amenable to the plan.”
In talks with city officials, Beauregard noted that they’ve said they support the solution, and just want the arrangement formalized.
“They’re just looking for us to follow the proper procedures,” he said.