Janet Coit, director of the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), believes people will take stewardship of the environment.
“I think we’re at a point where people get it,” she said March 25 at the 2014 Clean Water Legislative Breakfast held at the Crowne Plaza.
Coit was one of seven speakers who covered an array of topics from the financing of water and wastewater projects to various programs dealing with clean water to how Warwick plans to extend sewers.
Coit put in a pitch for legislation introduced by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi to phase out cesspools by requiring homes to tie into sewers or install an approved septic system when sold. With 27,000 homes dependent on cesspools for the disposal of wastewater, Coit said over time Rhode Island will do a better job of protecting the ground water from pollution.
“Really be a voice,” she urged her audience of agency directors and personnel, “let your elected officials know what you are doing.”
One voice that resonated with the group, however, was that of Warwick Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur. Ladouceur told of how he walked the ward in his bid for the seat, knocking on 3,296 doors in the course of 15 weeks. He said the lack of sewers was the top issue, quoting homeowners who told him they couldn’t get loans because they had cesspools, can’t run a shower and washing machine at the same time and were trapped by their circumstances.
“I knew sewers was not a politically popular issue. In spite of that, I took it on because I gave my word to the people that elected me that I would,” he said.
He said sewers “are the right thing to do” for the environment, for fishermen, for businesses, for our children, for wildlife and for those using city beaches.
“This is the right thing to do for the future of our city and for the $250 million investment the taxpayers have made in the Warwick Sewer Authority, and it is the right thing to do for the state of Rhode Island.”
In introducing Ladouceur, Janine Burke, director of the Warwick Sewer Authority, told of how the councilman acted to create the council sewer review commission. The commission has been meeting once a week since July and in December the council approved a $58 million revenue bond to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant and heighten the levy protecting the facility from a flooding Pawtuxet River and extend sewers in six Warwick neighborhoods.
Burke is a member of the commission.
Ladouceur acknowledged that improving wastewater treatment and extending sewers would only be accompanied by financial pain, adding that if the work is delayed “the cost 10 years from now will be even more painful.”
Financing was also on the breakfast agenda.
Burke, who is also the state director of the New England Water Environment Association and coordinated the event, called on William Sequino to address financing.
Former manager of East Greenwich, Sequino is the executive director of the Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency.
He said that the recent $90 million bond sale went well and will, among other projects, provide $7 million for treatment plant upgrades. He said the low interest rates obtained would enable the city to save $1.2 million in payments over the term of the bond issue.