News & Updates

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Rate Hearing for Fiscal 2023

The Prudence Island Water District will hold a rate hearing on November 19, 2022, at 11am. The PIWD will present the proposed 2023 budget, which it used at the October meeting as the reasoning behind the proposed new rate of $750 annually per connection. (The proposed tax assessment of $.76 per thousand remains unchanged from 2022.) Interested persons will then have an “opportunity to present data, views, and arguments”, as per charter and bylaws.

Those unable to attend may send comments or questions to our Treasurer, Ann Marie Lockwood, or budget subcommittee member Chuck Bear, and we will do our best to present them at the hearing.

Members of the public wishing to comment on other PIWD matters may, as usual, take advantage of the public comment period at one of our board meetings. The next board meeting will be held later on November 19, at 1pm in Hope Brown Center.

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Video Recording of Public Meeting: Treatment Project and Environmental Assessment

First, thanks to all 14 members of the public who attended this meeting. There were many good questions asked about the treatment project (diagrams), the environmental assessment, and our plans to improve the distribution system. For those who missed it and would like to see the video, our engineering firm has hosted it here.

Those who still have questions and comments may continue to send them to H2Olson Engineering or the Prudence Island Water District through the end of October, 2022. Additionally, when the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) posts the final Environmental Assessment, they will accept public comments for 30 days.

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Board Vacancy; 2023 Will Be An Election Year

The Prudence Island Water District expects to hold its regular election in June of 2023, with two of the five board seats on the ballot. As Helio Melo resigned from the board last month, there will not be two incumbents to re-elect.

The board feels that ideal candidates would have some familiarity with the current state of PIWD projects, typical board business, and other affairs, but notes that no members of the public are regularly attending meetings. We would encourage anyone interested in joining the board to attend meetings, talk to our members, and ask questions.

The board has used its authority to temporarily appoint Phil Brooks to the seat vacated by Helio. Phil brings significant experience and has served the board well in the past. Sadly, he no longer meets residency requirements and would not qualify for election in June, so we’re hoping the public can help us find promising new candidates. Identifying people who will learn the background and “hit the ground running” would be of great benefit to us all.

October 17 Update: The PIWD board has confirmed with the State Board of Elections that appointing Phil Brooks to serve until the next election was well within its authority granted by state charter (as well as the PIWD bylaws). Section 4.a. of our charter reads, in part, “Any vacancy that may occur in any of the aforenamed offices shall be filled by some person to be chosen by the other members of the board to hold the office until the next regular meeting”. In addition, the board firmly believes that appointing Phil Brooks, an individual with a long history of service on the board and extensive professional experience, served the public interest better than leaving the seat vacant. It is also worth mentioning that the board appointed Phil unanimously and without any reservations expressed. However, as we had heard rumors that some were dissatisfied with this move, perhaps on the basis that Phil is no longer a resident or customer, we requested that Phil abstain from voting at our October meeting until we had checked with the relevant state officials. Now that we have done so, we are confident that Phil can continue to serve the Board as a full voting member until the next election.

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Notes on Private Water Well Drilling On Prudence Island

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.

Drilling Private Wells Is A Bad Idea

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.

Drilling Private Wells In An Area Supplied By A Public Water Supply Is Often Against The Rules

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.

What Is Being Done?

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.

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Notice of Public Meeting – Prudence Island Water District Environmental Assessment

A Public Meeting will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2022 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Hope Brown Center located at 0113 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Prudence Island, RI. The meeting is being held to inform the residents of Prudence Island and customers of the Prudence Island Water District regarding the Prudence Island Water District’s proposed Public Water System Chlorination and Pre-treatment Project. A draft Environmental Assessment for the project has been completed for the construction of new water treatment and disinfection facilities to be located at the Indian Springs and Army Camp well sites. Attendance and public feedback are welcomed and would be appreciated.

Any written comments or questions may be sent to the PIWD; please use the addresses on our contact page.

While the topic of this special meeting is the Chlorination and Pre-treatment Project, members of the public interested in commenting on other matters are, as usual, welcome to do so during the public comment period at a regular PIWD meeting. The next regular meeting will be held later the same day, October 15, 2022, at 1pm, also at Hope Brown Center.

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PIWD Receives $1.35M From Infrastructure Bill

The Prudence Island Water District is pleased to have been included in the recent federal FY 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

The $1.35 million in funding received will be spent on important infrastructure projects the PIWD could not otherwise have afforded. At the May meeting, the PIWD board decided to put replacement of the Governor Paine “express” and other substandard lines out to bid. These lines have been responsible for over half of the system’s leaks in recent years, so replacement will improve system reliability, reduce the chance of depressurization or de-watering, and save customers an estimated $10,000 annually in emergency repairs and associated costs.

Many thanks go to Richard Rainer and Robin Weber, who prepared the application for the funding, others in Portsmouth and the PIWD who supported their effort, our elected federal and state representatives, and to all who completed income surveys, wrote letters of support, or otherwise helped us secure this essential funding.

In addition to the federal funds, the PIWD expects a significant state contribution to the ongoing water treatment project, which will remove bacteria, iron, and manganese from our water. Also, Portsmouth has graciously decided to share its ARPA (COVID relief) funding with the Prudence Island Water District; we expect this will cover a replacement generator, communications infrastructure, equipment, and other smaller engineering projects that will make our system more reliable and easier to operate.

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PIWD Joins State Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP)

The State of Rhode Island recently created a program to help low-income households pay their water bills. The Prudence Island Water District’s application to join this Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) has been approved.

The highest priority of the program is to help pay water bills for low-income customers who have had their service terminated, or who have been threatened with service disconnection due to overdue bills. In meetings with the State, they anticipate to pay:

  • Up to $500 for eligible low-income customers who have been terminated
  • 50% of past-due amounts for eligible customers who have been threatened with termination

Eligibility for the program is established using the guidance below:

LIHWAP Eligibility Information

In Rhode Island, applications to the program are handled by local “Community Action Agencies”. This is the same as for existing programs, such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The agency responsible for Portsmouth is the East Bay Community Action Program. To apply to the program, contact East Bay Community Action at (401)437-5102 or find them on the web at https://ebcap.org. As funding is limited for this temporary program, those interested in applying are encouraged not to wait.

The program may also help pay bills for low-income households who are in financial distress but are current on their bills, but this will only occur if there is sufficient funding available, and funds would appear to be quite limited at this time. The PIWD will provide more information as the program evolves.

Additional Resources

More details may be obtained from the appropriate federal, state, and local resources.

DHS Contact Information

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Welcoming Romeo Mendes

The PIWD is pleased to announce its newest hire, Romeo Mendes. Romeo is an experienced water system manager and is licensed to operate water distribution and treatment systems. The district is in the process of building a new disinfection and filtration system that will have additional licensing requirements, so we are quite fortunate to have found Romeo to fill the system manager role. Romeo is also a licensed Professional Engineer, which will come in quite handy as we design and build our new treatment system.

Romeo Mendes

Will Capron and Alton Barret will continue to operate the water system on a daily basis, ensuring qualified staff is available on-island 24/7.

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2022 Board Meeting Schedule

The PIWD board generally holds regular meetings on the third Saturday of the month at 1pm at Hope Brown Center, with the exception of August and December. Please refer to our published meeting schedule. Meeting agendas and minutes can be found on the website of the Secretary of State.