Smithfield receives $475,000 toward wastewater upgrades

Smithfield receives $475,000 toward wastewater upgrades

SMITHFIELD – The Smithfield Wastewater Treatment Facility received the third largest award from the Rhode Island Department of Environment Management Climate Resiliency Grant program last week.

The $475,000 grant will go toward constructing a grit removal system to protect the facility on Esmond Mill Drive from sand and other inorganics commonly brought in by heavy rains.

Narragansett won $625,000 and Westerly won $1.02 million for other projects.

According to the grant application from Lisa Andoscia, the Smithfield Sewer Authority is proposing an aerated grit removal system at the facility to prevent the damaging grit flows seen during the March 2010 historic floods.

Flooding along many parts of the Woonasquatucket River and the numerous contributing tributaries within the watershed not only flooded two sewer pumping stations, but, worse, affected the wastewater treatment process at the facility, states the application.

Grit removal upgrades will prevent the devastating operational effects of flooding within the watershed, it adds. Problems led to great difficulty in the final treating of sewage during and after the extreme weather event.

The grant to Smithfield represented one of 15 totaling $4.7 million given by the RIDEM and R.I. Infrastructure Bank for wastewater and treatment infrastructure in local communities. Grants are used by facilities to address flooding, storm surge, wind and other natural hazards expected to increase due to climate change. The grants will fund 18 projects and $10.5 million in construction costs.

“Unfortunately, some Rhode Islanders have become acutely aware of the importance of effective wastewater treatment lately, as sewer systems have clogged or even backed up due to inappropriate flushing of wipes,” said DEM Director Janet Coit in a release. “Making sure our wastewater treatment facilities continue to perform their critical role protecting public health is central to DEM’s mission, and has led to dramatic improvements to the quality of our waterways. Threats from sea level rise and more frequent intense storms due to climate change must be addressed and mitigated to ensure we don’t lose ground.”

Coit said the genesis of these grants goes back to the floods of a decade ago.

Statewide, there are 19 wastewater treatment facilities that treat some 120 million gallons of sewage produced every day in Rhode Island. The highly technical and costly systems serve as protective barriers for our state’s waters, which is especially important for public health, recreation, and the economy, said officials.

The Infrastructure Bank is providing financing for some of the matching funds put in by grantees, particularly for the largest awards.