DEM: ‘Substantial’ solid waste from Woonsocket sewage treatment plant dumped into Blackstone River daily

“What happens in the plant is that the solid waste is not segregated or separated from the stream,” DEM spokesman Mike Healy told The Globe. “In terms of how much, we really can’t give you a definite answer on that. Doing some basic math, it’s a very busy factory. It treats up to 10 million gallons per day.

Marsland, who lives 3 miles from the treatment facility and started Friends of the Blackstone in 1990, said this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Zero Away Pollution program, known as ZAP, the first cleanup project on the river. During this rejuvenation effort, pieces of machinery, trash, and large objects that had been dumped in the river for decades were removed.

Friends of the Blackstone and its partners have worked for decades to make the river a recreational destination. Not only do cyclists ride along the river on the Blackstone Bikeway, but people fish, canoe and kayak in the low waters.

DEM regulates wastewater treatment facilities in the state and continues to investigate the cause of discharges daily.

The failures may have resulted in the loss of full processing, according to DEM, which observes the steps taken by providers to come into compliance. The state issued letters of non-compliance to the facility in November 2021 and March 2022 regarding operations and maintenance issues.

Residents are warned not to use the water for recreational purposes from the discharge location, the mill at 11 Cumberland Hill Road in Woonsocket, to the Slater Mill Dam in Pawtucket. This includes the Blackstone Canal and Scott Pond in Lincoln.

The advisory will continue indefinitely.

The city of Woonsocket owns the sewage treatment plant, where day-to-day operations are contracted out to Texas-based consulting and engineering firm Jacobs. Sludge treatment operations are contracted out to Baltimore-based Synagro Technologies, Inc..

The Town of Woonsocket has not yet responded to calls for comment.

Water discharged into the river is treated at the plant with chlorine to kill organisms such as escherichia coli, commonly known as e. coli, in feces. Pollutants are disposed of in accordance with the facility’s state discharge permit before the water can be returned to the Blackstone River. However, it is possible, according to the DEM, that the water is no longer fully treated.

“Part of that sewage stream that goes into the river is solid waste,” Healy said. “We are talking about a very large amount. There is no way around this. It is very very disturbing. We don’t know if this is a process issue or an equipment issue or a combination of both. … They need to fix what needs to be fixed to bring this back into compliance as soon as possible.

Pools of polluted water along the Blackstone River in Rhode Island, where sewage containing raw sewage was improperly discharged into the waterway.Carlos Munoz

DEM personnel collected water samples from 20 locations in the estuarine portion of the Providence and Seekonk rivers below Slater Dam south of Conimicut Point. The analysis did not show elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria. Discharges do not adversely affect shellfish water quality in the lower Providence River and upper Narragansett Bay.

The routine closure of the Lower Providence E River conditional growing area was in effect June 4-16 due to rain.

“The Blackstone River is a historic river that has only become a clean body of water through decades of hard work and hundreds of thousands of people who care,” Healy says. “It is a treasure and a recreational resource for many people.”

The DEM announcement led to the cancellation of a number of events organized by Friends of the Blackstone, including an upcoming canoe trip for people who want to relieve stress and anxiety, and a chestnut of water in late June near Valley Falls Pond.

“How do you get people to volunteer? said Marsland. “We spent a lot of time changing people’s perceptions to see it as a resource. What kind of battle will we have to get people to embrace the river now?

“We are backing up with this sewage.”

The DEM has been in touch with volunteer groups and spoke at a recent Rhode Island Rivers Council meeting, but Marsland said they didn’t have many answers about the releases. He said his group had called a conservation law firm to inquire about a possible lawsuit.

“At the moment we are relying on DEM, but it’s not their fault,” Marsland said. “They are doing their best to see what is happening and how to fix it. These are poor management practices at the treatment plant.

Friends of the Blackstone were planning a new initiative called Blackstone River Commons, which is an expedition down the river from Woonsocket to Pawtucket from August 11-14. And the Blackstone River Collaborative has created a 20-point action plan to make the river cleaner and better for the community.

“The stars were ready to align,” Marsland said. “Now all of that is in danger. This year, we had so much planned for the next few months and even weeks. We launched a thing called “Blue Mind”, how being near water can relieve stress and anxiety. We have benches set up and down the river, but who wants to watch the sewage coming down the river? »

Carlos Muñoz can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ReadCarlos and on Instagram @Carlosbrknews.

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