NEWS

City’s water tanks need replacement

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 8/19/21

By JOHN HOWELL In Dec. 18, 2018, a 30-inch pipe, a major supply to city water, ruptured under Route 95 where it intersects with Route 37. Since then the city has relied on a by-pass that engineers had the foresight to install for such an event. Now the

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NEWS

City’s water tanks need replacement

Posted

In Dec. 18, 2018, a 30-inch pipe, a major supply to city water, ruptured under Route 95 where it intersects with Route 37. Since then the city has relied on a by-pass that engineers had the foresight to install for such an event.

Now the city has closed one of two water tanks on Bald Hill Road, the major source of pressure for the city’s water system, because of cracks. Both tanks, with a total capacity of 12 million gallons, will need to be replaced, Terry DiPetrillo said Friday.

“They are beyond their useful life,” DiPetrillo said of the cement tanks that were considered to be state of the art when erected in 1971.

DiPetrillo said the tanks are cleaned and inspected every five years. DiPetrillo held up a binder of the most recent report showing photographs of the interior wall of the 6.5 million gallon tank with narrow cracks running along its base. That tank was taken off line immediately after the report was issued about three weeks ago. This leaves the 5.5 million gallon tank providing most of the pressure – and a reserve – for the majority of the city’s water system.

The two Bald Hill Road tanks are fed by a 102-inch aqueduct from Providence Water Supply with a connecting line in Natick. The tanks also serve as a supply to the Kent County Water Authority that buys the water that Warwick has bought from Providence at wholesale. Warwick also buys water from Kent County, which in addition to buying Providence water has its own wells, to provide service to Potowomut.

In addition to the two Bald Hill Road tanks, the city has a 500,000-gallon water tower on Warwick Neck that is fed by a pump on State Street. That tower, erected in 1969, provides water to Warwick Neck.

Closure of the tank has not impacted the pressure of the system, which remains at about 60 psi, DiPetrillo said.

The plan is to replace both Bald Hill Road tanks with 4 million-gallon steel tanks at a projected cost of about $10 million. DiPetrillo expects Kent County Water Authority would pay $3.2 million of the total.

DiPetrillo said the initial step in the process is to design the project and that he will be appearing before the City Council with a bid to do that work.

Given the steps between designing the project, solicitation of construction bids and the actual work, he estimates it could take 18 months to complete one of the two steel tanks. That would then be brought on line as the other concrete tank is closed and likewise replaced.

The condition of the water tanks is yet another issue the administration faces over an aging infrastructure and outdated and inadequately maintained equipment. Just last month after being closed for more than a year, the city was able to reopen McDermott Pool. To do it required the replacement of a water heating system, piping and a pump. Soon after taking office Mayor Frank Picozzi moved swiftly to purchase one of the few rescue trucks he could find as the city was relying on loaners from neighboring communities. Under the lease-purchase plan approved as part of this year’s budget more than $6 million is allocated for additional rescues, sanitation trucks, police cars and other city vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Warwick Sewer Authority has embarked on a program of addressing deteriorating pipes caused by the buildup of hydrogen sulfide in the concrete pipes used for the Oakland Beach interceptor connecting to the Cedar Swamp pumping station off Sandy Lane.

A portion of the Sandy Lane line collapsed more than two years ago requiring the authority to replace that section of the line that was more than 20 feet below grade. The project resulted in extended detour of Sandy Lane traffic. The authority also commenced an extensive assessment of the system, concluding that additional sections of the Sandy Lane line were candidates for immanent failure. Rather than replace the line at great disruption and expense, the authority contracted for the pipes to be lined with fiberglass, a process that involves impregnating a giant felt “sock” with resin that has been introduced into the line. The “sock” is then pressurized with hot water that expands it to the diameter of the pipe while curing it into a new lining for the pipe.

DiPetrillo said a similar process or directional drilling are options for the repair of the water line under Route 95. He said the plan would be to line or replace both the pipe that failed plus the backup line the city has depended upon since December 2018. The cost of that project is projected at $4 million.

The Sewer Authority is also looking to move ahead with the long delayed Bayside sewer project to bring service to more than 900 property owners in Riverview, Highland Beach, Long Meadow and Bayside.

In addition to failing sewer and water lines, the city is in the midst of an ongoing program of road repaving and school building improvements. The School Department is in the process of completing renovations to elementary schools and is now examining how to approach the city’s two high schools. Last week the RI Department of Education outlined its preference to build new high schools, rather than revise the existing structures as that would be less of a disruption to the educational process. Based on what it has cost to build a new East Providence high school, Warwick would be looking at about $190 million per school. As much as 52 percent of that cost could be reimbursed by the state.

But the question for all these projects remains, where is the money going to come from?

Picozzi is hopeful the projects will be eligible for federal funding under the infrastructure bill approved by Congress.

In that respect these projects could be coming at a good time. The need is there and in some instances so are the plans. But if supplemental federal funding isn’t available, the city must still move ahead with water repairs, or the city could be severely impacted.

TIME TO BE REPLACED: The two water tanks on Bald Hill Road with a total capacity of 12 million gallons have outlived their lives according to Terry DiPetrillo, head of the Warwick Water Division. One of the tanks has already been taken off-line because of cracks. (Warwick Beacon photo)

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