Water treatment plant on track for 2020 opening

Water treatment plant on track for 2020 opening

City officials and representatives of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank participated in a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday to celebrate the progress on the new Woonsocket Water Treatment Facility, a $56.7 million project on track for completion in December 2020. Pictured from left are former City Councilor Christopher Beauchamp, a member of the Water Treatment Plant Project Advisory Committee; Anthony Sylvia, senior engineer with the Department of Health; Paul Levreault, a member of the advisory committee; former Mayor Leo Fontaine; Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt; City Council President Daniel Gendron; Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank Executive Director Jeffrey Diehl; Director of Public Works Steven D’Agostino; City Councilor James Cournoyer; Allen Rivers, a member of the advisory committee; and City Councilor David Soucy.

WOONSOCKET – City officials and representatives of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank gathered Tuesday morning to celebrate the progress on the Woonsocket Water Treatment Facility, a $56.7 million project on track for completion in December 2020.

According to Director of Public Works Steven D’Agostino, the project broke ground last summer, when crews began blasting on the site off Jillson Avenue behind Bernon Heights Elementary School. Nearly a year into construction, D’Agostino said, the project is currently $109,000 under budget, a gap he expects will close and then widen again as the city takes on some of the final paving work in-house near the end of the project.

“When it’s all said and done, I expect it to be under budget,” he said.

While construction began a little over a year ago, planning has been ongoing since at least 2008, when the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management ruled the current plant on Manville Road no longer met state standards due to release of pollutants into the river. Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt said the project is the largest the city has undertaken since construction of the Middle School complex on Hamlet Avenue and likely to be the largest for some time.

“This is one of the most costly projects that the city has undertaken in its history, and the level of importance warrants the expertise we have here today,” she said.

In addition to city officials, the gathering included representatives of Aecom, the project engineer; Suez, the company that will operate the new plant and currently operates the plant on Manville Road; Nickerson, the general contractor; CDM Smith, the engineering consultant; and Wright-Pierce, an engineering consultant for the Department of Health, which oversees the project.

Also present were members of the Water Treatment Plant Project Advisory Committee appointed by former Mayor Leo Fontaine. Among other responsibilities, the committee selected the site of the new plant, an approximately 15-acres tract of land located close to a residential neighborhood that drew some opposition when the city purchased it in 2011.

“There was a lot of work from so many people that went into this, so it’s really gratifying at this point to see it all come to fruition,” said Fontaine.

The project will be funded with approximately $55 to $60 million in loans from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, the quasi-public agency that provides low-interest funding to municipalities and other entities. As of this week, the city had already received $27.5 million toward the project and expected to close on the remaining financing within the next few weeks. Jeffrey Diehl, the bank’s executive director, estimated the arrangement will save city taxpayers more than $1 million in interest costs over 30 years as compared with a loan from a private entity.

According to Diehl, the latest project brings the bank’s total investment in the city to more than $100 million. Now in its 30th year, the bank has invested more than $2 billion in infrastructure projects around the state since its inception.

In addition to the main facility on Jillson Avenue, the project also includes construction of a raw water pump station at the site of the current water treatment plant as well as pipes to transfer water between the facilities. According to D’Agostino, the laying of pipes under Manville Road is now complete, and construction of the pump station will begin this summer.