Everything from affordable housing to roadwork were discussed, but the Town Council okays seeking cost estimates in one important area -- water quality.
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TOWN COUNCIL, PLANNING BOARD MEET FOR PRIORITY DISCUSSION
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (APRIL 29, 2021) – Water quality is an issue that comes up often in the Town of Middletown.
On Wednesday night during a Zoom webinar with the Planning Board, the Town Council voted to give town staff the go ahead to seek cost estimates for several items impacting this important area.
Among those included periodic water quality testing of stormwater treatment systems, formalizing a program with other organizations already performing testing and establishing a new nutrient control ordinance.
The council also okayed getting cost estimates for a public educational campaign about helping clean groundwater as well as creating a database of all wells in town and evaluating minimum lot sizes for homes with wells.
By making those moves, council members were clear they were not formally moving forward with any of those programs, but starting a review of what was involved. Prior to taking any next steps, local leaders said each proposal needs a thorough public vetting and approval from the council.
“Quite often, with the Planning Board and the zoning board, when we’re reviewing projects these days on the east side of town, groundwater quality, effects on well water are huge issues,” Town Solicitor Peter B. Regan said. “It comes up in every single development.”
At a time when other parts of the country are coping with severe drinking water shortages, that’s not typically a problem facing Middletown, except in extreme drought conditions. Over the past decade plus, this is true whether a customer gets town water or draws off a private well.
However, it’s not uncommon to hear concerns about the quality of the water itself, whether it’s what comes out of the tap, from wells or ground water runoff.
According to a recent study of area waterways for the town by Crossman Engineering -- https://www.middletownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/419/Water-Resources-Study-Presentation-PDF?bidId= -- there is reason for concern.
Paradise Brook was found to have fecal coliform, phosphorous and high levels of turbidity, with similar issues facing the Maidford River. Bailey Brook was reported to have high counts of lead, enterococcus, and phosphorus. Reservoirs overseen by the city of Newport in town face comparable problems.
Aware of those issues, council and Planning Board members targeted the area as one of high concern during the wide-ranging discussion.
Throughout, most council members were clear they did not want to impose new fees or expenses on homeowners. They said this was especially true now as a result of the hardships on the community created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Toward that end, the council dismissed separate cost studies of a new town wide stormwater utility, potentially extending town water to the east side or an onsite wastewater management plan for those who operate private septic systems.
At the end of the meeting, council President Paul M. Rodrigues applauded his colleagues and the Planning Board for its efforts. And while everyone part of the meeting might not have always agreed, he said all were there for the right reasons.
“I think this is healthy,” Rodrigues said. “Again, we’re not always going to agree on everything, but every single person sitting in this room or on Zoom is always going to do what’s in the best interest of Middletown and that’s the end game. We may see different avenues to get there, but as long as we’re pulling the rope from the same end, good things will continue to happen.”