EPA Targets Rhode Island’s Sewage Overflows

The Environmental Protections Agency’s New England Regional Office recently ordered five Rhode Island municipalities and a wastewater utility to take steps...

Apr 1st, 2007

The Environmental Protections Agency’s New England Regional Office recently ordered five Rhode Island municipalities and a wastewater utility to take steps to stop harmful raw sewage overflows from seeping from city pipes and wastewater systems into the state’s waterways. EPA’s issuance of Administrative Compliance Orders is part of an ambitious new effort to combat the water quality problems caused by Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) in the state. The EPA Orders were issued to the Narragansett Bay Commission and the Cities of Providence, Barrington, Smithfield, Cranston and Bristol, Rhode Island.

“EPA is working to secure Rhode Island’s future as the ‘Ocean State’ by tackling the state’s sewage overflow problems head-on,” said Robert W. Varney, regional Administrator of EPA’s New England office. “This effort to address SSOs in Rhode Island will help ensure the long-term vitality and health of the state’s most valuable resources -- its coastal beaches, shellfish areas and waters.”

EPA plans to use a variety of compliance techniques to make all of Rhode Island’s wastewater utilities and municipalities with wastewater collection systems aware of the harmful effects of SSOs, and get them to take action to fix any problems found. Recently, EPA sent letters to all such entities in Rhode Island, asking city officials to focus on the issue and informing them that it is an EPA priority. Working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM), EPA plans to combine enforcement and compliance assistance to encourage, or require, municipalities and wastewater entities to take necessary steps to address their SSO problems.

EPA has taken enforcement actions in other New England states for sanitary sewer overflows, collecting penalties in some cases. EPA recently collected penalties from the Metropolitan District (MDC) in Hartford, CT, and Worcester, MA, for failures in the communities’ sanitary sewer collection systems. The six orders announced earlier this year are the first federal actions in Rhode Island for sewer overflows.

The recent Compliance Orders targeted wastewater systems with serious SSO problems, and require system assessments, development of plans to remedy any deficiencies found, and development of long-term preventative maintenance programs. EPA’s orders compliment ongoing actions that RIDEM has taken to control SSOs in East Providence and Middletown.

EPA plans to continue its enforcement push while also offering compliance assistance workshops and training for Rhode Island municipalities. The first workshop was held on December 12, 2006, in Warwick, and additional assistance workshops will be provided through 2007. The workshops will assist municipalities by helping them identify and prevent problems with the operation and maintenance of their wastewater collection infrastructure, and will provide guidance on how to develop long-term management and investment plans for future protection.

EPA has launched a regional web site at http://www.epa.gov/ne/sso to provide more information on preventing SSOs, including links to future workshop information.

EPA Launches Website On Human Health Research

EPA’s Human Health Research Program launched a new Web site on the latest information on its research to protect public health. The program’s science looks at such questions as why some people are more sensitive to pollution and how exposure to chemicals affects people’s health. The site is designed for the general public as well as for the scientific community.

“The best decisions are informed decisions,” said George Gray, assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. “The site provides easy access to research and results on methods, tools, and data needed to improve risk assessments to protect the public.”

Visitors to the site will find an overview of the research, information on how research has contributed to decision making, resource materials available in journal publications and reports, and a listing of meetings and conferences. The website can be accessed at: www.epa.gov/hhrp.

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