Narragansett Bay Commission Looks For Cheaper, Greener Ways To Finish Sewer Overflow Project

Mar 14, 2014

The Narragansett Bay Commission has started to re-evaluate the third and final phase of the combined sewer overflow project. The project aims to reduce the amount of untreated sewage and polluted runoff overflows entering Narragansett Bay and its tributaries. Federal officials ordered the overhaul to meet the federal Clean Water Act.

Jamie Samons, the public affairs officer of the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC), said the organization is holding a series of meetings with a cross section of people who care about improving the health of Narragansett Bay, from environmental advocates to shell fishermen to cities and towns.

The first of those meetings took place this week. Samons said the idea behind the meetings, scheduled through September, is to keep up with a changing economy and environment.

Samons said the meetings would explore new technologies that weren’t a part of the conversation when the NBC first envisioned the project.

“Can we look at ways of building green spaces or bio swells that might help to take care some of our CSO problem, as opposed as maybe putting as much pipe in the ground? We know we’re going to have to put pipe in the ground—there’s just no way around that—but there might be another alternative that might have less of an infrastructure impact,” said Samons.

They’ll also explore how to spend less money on the project, said Samons, “especially when we consider what our ratepayers can afford. There’s a huge affordability issue here, as well.”

Ratepayers are footing most of the bill. The entire project is estimated to cost $1.1 billion and it’s designed to reduce overflows of untreated sewer and polluted runoff by 95 percent.