April 19, 2012
Filed under General
What’s all this construction for?
The construction in your neighborhood is to address Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and bring Rhode Island into compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act by keeping storm-related sewer discharges out of our urban rivers and Narragansett Bay. The current construction---the new pipes being installed throughout Providence--- is for Phase II of the Narragansett Bay Commission’s CSO Project. Phase I was completed in 2008.
What’s a Combined Sewer Overflow?
Many of Providence’s sewers date back to the late 19th or early 20th century. At that time, the state of technology in sewer construction was to install a single pipe in the street to handle both sanitary sewage from homes and businesses AND storm water that flowed off roofs and on streets*. These sewers are called Combined Sewers, and they work great in dry weather. When it rains, however, the pipes become overwhelmed with the extra storm water. In order to keep the sewage from backing up into houses or onto the city street, the original engineers designed the system to overflow into the nearest river in periods of heavy rain. This is called a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO). CSOs violate the Federal Clean Water Act and cause shellfishing closures due to bacterial contamination from sanitary sewage.
Why do you have to rip up the streets?
We know: construction is inconvenient and aggravating. But, the sewers are under the streets, and the only way to get to them is to disturb the surface. We’re doing this as efficiently as possible, but the truth about digging in an older urban environment is that we sometimes find things we didn’t plan on and our work gets delayed.
Wonder what all that equipment is? Click here for photos.
Why the traffic detours?
We work very closely with the Providence Police Department and defer to their expertise about traffic safety. If the officer on duty determines that a detour is safer than keeping alternate lanes of traffic open, then we comply.
Ack: the NOISE!
Every day our crews are digging up thousands of pounds of dirt, rock, and pavement, and it’s noisy. We follow the City guidelines for construction, starting after 7:00 a.m. and finishing for the day by 5:00 p.m. The loud beeps that you hear from the trucks are back-up alarms and they are a required safety precaution.
What's going to happen to the street afterwards?
After we complete construction, we are committed to leaving the neighborhood in a better---and more environmentally-sound---place than when we arrived. To this end, we will repave, curb-to-curb, all streets impacted by construction. The streets will look great when we're done, although it will certainly be pretty unattractive along the way.
Will all this really make the Bay any cleaner?
Yes! Phase I of the CSO project went on line in 2008, since that time over 4 billion gallons of combined sewage have been captured and cleaned that otherwise would have gone out into the urban rivers and Narragansett Bay. Last year, the RI Department of Environmental Management and the RI Department of Health revised shellfishing closure rules due to improved water quality. The future will bring even greater improvements.
Want to learn more about the CSO Project? Click here.
Want to see the treatment plant where all this dirty water gets cleaned? Come for a tour! We love to show off our facilities---they’re among the best in the nation! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a tour.
*Funny historical tidbit: In the late 19th century when many of the City’s sewers were originally built, Providence’s population included about 100,000 people and 200,000 horses. Horses=horse manure, mostly in the city streets. Building combined sewers provided a convenient receptacle for the manure when storms came.