Woonsocket council approves Slatersville water extension into Millville; Water contract talks set to begin

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In 2020, Boyle & Fogarty Construction installed a water line extension along Mechanic Street in North Smithfield.

WOONSOCKET – A project to extend lines operated by the Slatersville Water District into the neighboring community of Millville, Mass. moved forward this week, with members of the Woonsocket City Council passing a resolution in favor of the project.

The extension, one element of an agreement between the town of North Smithfield and Philips North America to address well contamination issues, had been put on hold earlier this month after Woonsocket officials asserted they must approve the arrangement. The Slatersville Water District currently provides water to some 520 North Smithfield homes, purchased under a wholesale agreement from the Woonsocket Water Department.

Last May, the North Smithfield Town Council signed a settlement agreement with Philips authorizing extension of the water lines to three homes with contaminated wells at 3, 19 and 25 Providence Street in Millville. It was a solution to an issue that began back to 2015 with the discovery of Trichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene and Freon 113 in the wells, created with input from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Philips, a business that conducted metals plating and branding at a 35-acre parcel on Industrial Drive in North Smithfield between 1977 and 1990, had been deemed a potentially responsible party, and began efforts to resolve the problem earlier this year, extending the 8-inch Slatersville water main line approximately 750 feet from its previous end at Old Great Road into Massachusetts.

The project had reached its final stages, with the lines set to be flushed and sanitized before going live.

But at a Woonsocket City Council meeting earlier this month, city officials noted that they hadn’t been informed of the deal, and questioned if there were legal ramifications to the agreement, which involved the water provided to parties out of state, noting that the state Public Utilities Commission governs such arrangements.

“We kind of stumbled upon it and just wanted it to be done correctly,” Woonsocket Public Works Director Steven D’Agostino told NRI NOW this week. “We never really had an objection – just wanted it to be done by the letter of the law.”

After a call to the town, North Smithfield officials followed up with a visit to Woonsocket to request the approval.

“We were very pleased that North Smithfield came and asked to extend into Millville,” D’Agostino said, noting that the city has since received assurance that there no legal hurdles to he arrangement. “We had Attorney Allan Shaw reach out to the PUC, and he confirmed that there were no issues.”

On Monday, Nov. 27, the Woonsocket City Council approved a resolution in favor of the extension.

D’Agostino said that the two neighboring towns now plan to tackle another issue with the water purchase arrangement: an expired contract for the service. The water contract between Woonsocket and North Smithfield technically expired in 2016, but has continued under the old terms. Recent discussion of a possible extension of water service to the Route 146 corridor highlighted the need for a new agreement.

The public works director said that the new contract is among items to be discussed tonight with new Woonsocket Mayor Christopher Beauchamp.

“The discussions have not begun yet,” D’Agostino said.

D’Agostino said he hopes to set up a series of meetings between the two governing councils to negotiate a new contract in the coming weeks.

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