Agency: Rockland Oaks water will be held to public standards

Agency: Rockland Oaks water will be held to public standards

SCITUATE – Senior living facility Rockland Oaks is under scrutiny from the Rhode Island Department of Health Center for Drinking Water Quality, which has declared that it must come into compliance with the standards of a public water system.

A July 15 letter confirms the facility’s water is considered a community public water system and subject to frequent testing.

Amy Parmenter, of the Center for Drinking Water Quality, addressed Scituate Housing Authority Chairwoman Joyce Healey-Sirois, stating that changes in the plumbing of the wells servicing Rockland Oaks allow for any one well to provide water to the entire facility, and it is thus required to be licensed as a community public water system.

As a public water service, the wells serving Rockland Oaks do not meet siting requirements for source water protection, as they are “very low-producing wells,” Parmenter said.

The Center encouraged the SHA to investigate connecting to the existing Scituate High School and Middle School water system at 94 Trimtown Road.

“In lieu of connecting to the existing PWS at the HS/MS, you will be required to drill at least two new wells that meet the requirements and regulations,” Parmenter said in her letter.

The SHA must apply to the Center before drilling new wells or connecting to the high and middle school system.

Following public water supply standards, at minimum, the wells are subject to routine sampling and any required repeat sampling must comply with the total coliform rule, a rule requiring all public water supplies to monitor for the presence of coliforms, effective immediately. The tests must be conducted on each well, and submitted to the Center by Aug. 10.

Tests showing coliform or E. coli need to be reported within 24 hours of receipt.

The SHA needs to also submit a coliform sampling plan within 10 days of the letter, as well as collecting one nitrate sample at each well as soon as possible in July, with the same reporting timeline for infected water.

Testing needs to also sample for chemicals, including synthetic, volatile, and inorganic chemicals, and sample for compliance with lead and copper limits by the end of the year.

The SHA must also submit the license application and payment for a new public water system within 10 days, and annually by June 30 each year.

All monitoring results must also be reported to the Rhode Island Department of Health and follow the agency’s sampling schedules prescribed by the RIDOH.

Healey-Sirois did not respond to calls for comment.

The letter was prompted by demands for an investigation by former SHA member Richard Finnegan, who said he received many calls from residents about discolored water and times with no running water.

Though Finnegan was removed from the SHA in 2018, he continued to follow the water issues and said he remained in contact with residents.

“The people do deserve water,” he said.

Finnegan said in a phone conversation that problems began at Rockland Oaks in 1996, when the SHA board at the time disconnected to stop being a public water system. Since then, water has often run rusty and discolored. When Finnegan joined the board in 2017, the SHA began testing the water and found it positive for E. coli, he said.

In March of this year, a plumber found the issue to be a missed connection in the system, which, once connected, created a public water system. A public water system supplies water to more than 12 units, or 25 people. By splitting the system in half, each system served 12 units at Rockland Oaks, with no water supplied to the community room.

While the water at Rockland Oaks runs clear currently, wells ran dry last week due to hidden leaks inside toilets. A water truck sits outside Rockland Oaks in case well water runs dry again.

“It’s awful. I feel so bad for those people, I really do,” Finnegan said.