Sewer hookup is a legal quagmire for RI store

Nov. 23, 2000
A short sewer line connection to a store complex in Massachusetts requires a long process of approvals.

NORTH SMITHFIELD, RI, Nov 22, 2000 (The Providence Journal)—To get a sewer line hooked up to the three toilets in his family's liquor store complex on Quaker Highway, Peter Labonte needs a hundred feet or so of pipe, the approval of three municipalities and two state legislatures and an act of Congress.

Labonte appeared before the North Smithfield Town Council in August, asking permission to connect his Century Discount Liquors, just up the street from the North Smithfield Public Works garage and just over the Massachusetts state line.

From a technical standpoint, the job is not a big deal. The town has a sewer line on Quaker Highway, and all Labonte has to do is install a connection to it. At least that's what the North Smithfield Town Council thought in August.

But North Smithfield Sewer Commissioner Dean Narodowy said at a Town Council meeting last month that in the sewer business, the technical problems can sometimes pale before the procedural.

That's because North Smithfield's sewer system is part of a four- town sewer network that includes Woonsocket and the Massachusetts towns of Blackstone and Bellingham all piping their effluent to the sewage treatment plant in Woonsocket.

As a multitown, two-state district, that setup needed the blessing of the legislatures in both states to allow intertown cooperation. As as a interstate system, it also needs the approval of Congress.

And just to make the Century Discount Liquors situation a little more complicated, the store is in Millville, Mass., which is not one of the Massachusetts towns that belongs to the system.

Narodowy told the North Smithfield Town Council that means that besides its endorsement, Labonte will have to get the approval of the Millville Board of Selectmen as well. Then the City of Woonsocket will have to sign off on it, because the treatment plant is within its bounds.

Next, the Rhode Island and Massachusetts legislatures will have to approve the connection and, after that, Congress will have to amend the original interstate act that established the four-town sewage system.

Labonte said that's all right with him.

It's really not that big of a mess, Labonte said. We just needed a road map.

But it's worth the trouble for Labonte because the septic field on the store's property is failing, and tough new septic system regulations in Massachusetts do not allow him to replace it. He has to find a sewer line to connect to and the nearest is North Smithfield's.

We've got to do it, he said. It's got to be done.

Before allowing the connection, the North Smithfield Town Council has set some restrictions. Labonte had sought the connection in the past, but town officials had balked out of fear that a sewer connection to his property would trigger a larger, unwanted development over the town and state line.

Labonte has agreed to limit the connection to one large enough to accommodate only the three toilets in the existing buildings. The North Smithfield Town Council also required that it have the right to approve or reject any new construction on the site once the sewer line is installed, a condition to which Labonte also agreed.

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