We understand that our customers are frustrated with the pace of progress on water quality issues (as are we), and that this has led to some interest in the drilling of private wells. Please know that the Prudence Island Water District board has an engineering plan in place to solve the issues in the coming year, and that funding has been secured so that this can be done at minimal expense to ratepayers. It is a long journey, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, so investment in private wells is not worth it.
Construction of private wells is expensive, there is ongoing maintenance, and the outcome is likely to be worse than using the public water supply. Many private wells on Prudence Island suffer from high iron and occasional bacterial contamination, but PIWD sources will soon be treated to solve these problems. We also have redundant wells, a large supply tank, backup generators, and everything required to keep water flowing in emergencies, whereas private well owners do not.
According to the Rhode Island Plumbing Code, new wells can only be installed in areas that are not already served by a public water system. In many lots on Prudence Island, it is also not possible to meet setbacks from property lines or septic fields, and to follow other important regulations and guidelines. Homeowners intending to install a private well should first acquire a permit from the Town’s Building Inspection Department to ensure that a well is allowable for their location and proper well placement is possible on their property.
While the PIWD has a limited resources and authority to police private wells, we are obligated to protect the public water supply, to enforce necessary conservation measures, and to ensure that inhabitants have safe water. You can’t live in a house without a water supply, so residences that are disconnected from our distribution system are reported to the town. In accordance with state law, the town will require a well completion certificate and water quality test results to ensure that an appropriate water supply is available, or the property will be condemned. We will be requesting the same completion and quality records from the Town as this information is useful for understanding the location and quality of water sources on Prudence Island, and for monitoring the watershed.