Engineer: Waste agreement with Woonsocket is best plan

Engineer: Waste agreement with Woonsocket is best plan

NORTH SMITHFIELD - A new agreement for wastewater disposal may cost users in North Smithfield an extra $194,000 a year, but it's still the most affordable option, an engineer told the Town Council this week.

"In essence we don't have any other better alternatives that I can see from an engineering and financial standpoint," said Joseph Casali, president of Joe Casali Engineering, Inc.

Woonsocket officials have looked to get three neighboring towns to sign new inter-jurisdictional agreements for waste service at the Cumberland Hill Road facility for the past several years, but North Smithfield has held out, with 4,400 users potentially affected by the change. The 22-year contracts split $300,000 in costs between Bellingham, Blackstone and North Smithfield. The funding would be used in part to perform state-mandated upgrades to the plant.

The two Massachusetts towns that utilize portions of the plant agreed to new contracts earlier this year, but Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton has said that the fee the city is demanding is not acceptable, and vowed to look for other options for waste disposal.

The search, it seems, has not been fruitful.

"We find at this time that it's prudent that the town execute the inter-jurisdictional waste agreement with the city of Woonsocket," Casali said.

Casali was hired in October to complete a Sewer Feasibility Study in search of alternative solutions, including the possibility of building a new wastewater treatment plant in town. Last month, he met with Hamilton, along with Sewer Supt. Russ Carpenter and Angelo Liberti, chief of watersheds and standards for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, to discuss the idea.

"It was estimated that the cost of new construction could be upward of $30 million, with an approval process, if allowed, of up to five to eight years," the results of that study explain.

Treated wastewater from a North Smithfield plant would need to be discharged into either Cherry Brook or the Blackstone River, which are both situated in what's considered an "impaired watershed."

"It was unsure if RIDEM would even allow discharge from a new wastewater treatment plant to this water body, especially knowing the Woonsocket Wastewater Treatment Plant is already permitted to handle North Smithfield's waste water," the engineer explained. "They also cautioned us that knowing that Woonsocket has the capacity it would probably be in both of our best interest to work together."

Casali also looked at the possibility of the town tying into the wastewater treatment plant in Burrillville.

"Burrillville does not have the capacity to handle the town's flow," he said. The addition of North Smithfield to the neighboring town's system, they found, would put Burrillville at full build out capacity immediately upon connection, and force officials not only to upgrade the waste water treatment plant to handle the additional flow, but also to renew their discharge permit.

Cassali said they also looked at the possibility of creating an agreement with Smithfield, but ruled out that option because would cost the town millions in infrastructure creation, as pipes were laid over distances between the two towns.

The town is currently operating under an expired wastewater disposal contract with Woonsocket signed in 1977. The agreement includes a clause stating that terms continue until either party gives three years' notice of their intent to change their wastewater plan. In October, Woonsocket officially put North Smithfield on three years' notice.

Still, Hamilton and members of the council did not seem fully convinced that there was not another viable alternative. Councilor Paul Zwolinski asked Casali if his firm had looked into the possibility of linking in to Lincoln's system, an option the engineer said he could explore.

Hamilton said the town has still not signed the new contract.

"We believe the best course of action will be to continue, with our neighbors in Blackstone, to negotiate a reasonable course of action for both the city and the two towns," she said.