Cesspool Phase-Out Update PDF  | Print |  E-mail

"Legislation I submitted was passed by the House on Tuesday to extend the cesspool deadline from 2013 to 2014 for cesspools within the 200' boundary covered by the 2007 cesspool phaseout act. For those who are in the boundary but have no idea when sewers are coming the deadline for the city to act is pushed out to 2020. The city however must inform DEM of their intentions by 2014. The legislation is statewide, not just for Warwick."


Link to legislation:

Cesspool phase-out may be extended by John Howell, Rhody Beat
06.21.11 - 04:09 pm

Amended legislation that would give property owners with cesspools living within 200 feet of the shoreline additional time to either upgrade to an approved septic system, connect to sewers or wait for sewers to be extended to their neighborhoods could come before House legislators as soon as today.

"The goal is to have a clean Bay," Rep. Frank Ferri said Saturday. Ferri, whose district includes Riverview, Highland Beach and Bayside, all neighborhoods with high levels of cesspools, introduced legislation to delay enactment of the 2007 cesspool act by five years. While more than 500 Warwick property owners would be affected by the law, Ferri's district that includes Ward 5 faces unique issues. Many properties are as small as 5,000 square feet, meaning an alternative septic system would be difficult to install and cost as much as $30,000. The Warwick Sewer Authority (WSA) has long recognized the need to extend sewers to the area and designed plans to do so. However, when preliminary site work revealed evidence of American Indian activity, the project was put on hold and the money earmarked for the work went into extending sewers elsewhere.

Initially, Ferri sought legislation that would extend the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline so the city could reactivate plans for sewers. But environmentalists and the Department of Environmental Management were wary of the legislation and its repercussions.

Jane Austin of Save the Bay, who was involved in talks with legislators, including Rep. Arthur Handy, chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources House Committee, said yesterday Ferri's bill could have delayed momentum to address cesspools statewide.

"It potentially was throwing the entire state implementation off the rails," she said. "DEM's interest is to continue with the phase out [of cesspools]," Russell Chateauneuf, chief of ground water and wetlands protection said yesterday. He said that DEM has issued 2,182 letters to property owners with cesspools statewide informing them of the 2007 statute. Letters have not been issued for Warwick or Portsmouth homeowners.

The amended Ferri bill, Austin said, now gives some "breathing space" while correcting an underlying problem with the 2007 statute.

The issue with the law as it now stands is that it exempts properties with access to sewers, since by state law they are required to make the connection only when the property is sold.

In a meeting last week, Ferri said an agreement was hammered out that would give an additional year to property owners in the 200-foot coastal area until Jan. 1, 2014 to have an approved septic system. Those with access to sewers, but haven't connected, would also get an additional year to Jan. 1, 2014 to connect. And if they were in neighborhoods where sewers are planned, but have yet to be built, they would have until Jan. 1, 2020 to connect.

The caveat is that communities would have to commit to the sewer projects by Jan. 1, 2013. They have until Jan. 1, 2015 to demonstrate they have the financing.

As Ferri points out, that would give municipalities opportunities in 2012 and 2014 to place sewer bond issues on local ballots.

But there's more to the trade off that, as Ferri points out, buys valuable time to help property owners otherwise faced with expensive septic systems that may be short lived when municipalities extend sewers. Supporters of the legislation also want an extension of the connect mandate to all property owners with cesspools with access to sewers. These property owners would be faced with a Jan. 1, 2014 deadline to connect.

According to information provided to Save the Bay by the WSA, there are 2,039 property owners with cesspools of which 374 are within 200 feet of the shoreline and have access to sewers now.

A mandate for property owners to connect to sewers troubles Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice.

DelGiudice favors those aspects of the revised legislation that would enable property owners to wait until sewer systems are in place so as to avoid the cost of septic systems, but he says the provision requiring those with cesspools beyond 200 feet of the shoreline or a source of freshwater "goes beyond [the original intent] of the cesspool act."

Yesterday afternoon, Austin emailed the Beacon to report that the provision extending the connect mandate beyond the 200 feet from the shoreline had been dropped from the amended bill.

Provisions of the amended legislation would have no impact on Gaspee Point homeowners. Spring Green Corporation that owns the property and leases it is in the midst of installing sewers and homeowners were expected to be capable of connecting by the initial Jan. 1, 2013 deadline.

Potowomut, another Warwick neighborhood with a high level of cesspools, is not slated to get sewers. The WSA is considering designating the neighborhoods a wastewater management treat area, enabling residents to apply for low cost loans to install or upgrade septic systems. The drawback is the added costs the authority would incur to annually inspect the systems and enforce such requirements as annual pump outs.

Submitted to RVIA by
Frank Ferri
38 Lippitt Ave
Warwick, RI

Correspondence Secretary, Riverview Neighborhood Association


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