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News Release
RI Department of Environmental Management
235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908
(401) 222-2771 TDD/(401) 222-4462

For Release: July 1, 2011
Contact: Gail Mastrati 222-4700 ext. 2402

Residents Advised to Temporarily Refrain from Contact Recreation Along the Blackstone in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE-The Department of Environmental Management is investigating the overflow of a possible 162,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage from tanks at the Woonsocket Wastewater Treatment Facility, a portion of which discharged into the Blackstone River just south of Hamlet Avenue in Woonsocket. The discharge occurred between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday and was due to an electrical failure within the Woonsocket wastewater treatment plant.

The Woonsocket Wastewater Treatment Facility, operated by the private contractor Veolia Water, treats about 10 million gallons of sewage daily. Plant staff and electricians are currently determining the exact cause of the electrical failure, which shut down key pumps. With the pumps shut down until plant staff made temporary repairs, plant settling tanks overflowed as wastewater continued to flow by gravity from the city's sewer system into the plant. Wastewater staff applied chlorine bleach to provide disinfection to a portion of sewage entering the river. A DEM inspector was on site this morning to monitor the investigation and to make a preliminary review.

Based on information gathered from wastewater staff and known flow rates into the facility, DEM estimates that a maximum volume of 162,000 gallons of partially-treated wastewater entered the Blackstone River. However, given the distance to the riverbank and soil percolation, the actual volume entering the river may have been significantly less.

As a precaution, the Department of Health and DEM are advising people to refrain from contact recreation along the Blackstone River in Rhode Island and to avoid consuming fish from the river. This advisory is in effect until sundown on Saturday, July 2.


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