2008-03-13 / Letters to the Editor

Time is ticking for SSA designation

Jamestowners: Your name, address and one sentence is enough to help protect our island's water supply now and in the future: "I support the Conanicut Island Sole Source Aquifer petition." The email address for your one sentence is mcguire.karen@epa.gov. The EPA deadline is March 17, 2008. The final decision to declare Jamestown a Sole Source Aquifer will be by the EPA's regional administrator.

Letters can also be sent via the post office to: Karen McGuire, U.S. EPA, One Congress St., Suite 1100, Boston, MA, 02114-2023.

Our island's geology defines us as a Sole or Primary Source Aquifer. Doug Heath, EPA hydrogeologist, said our entire island is a Sole Source Aquifer from mean high tide. Mr. Heath and Ms. McGuire visited Jamestown last month for the EPA public hearing attended by island residents, the Town Council and the town administrator.

Having Conanicut Island designated a sole source aquifer benefits the island educationally and provides hydrogeologic oversight if Federal money is sought. These protections are important because:

1. Rainfall is the only source of water for the entire island.

2. We cannot get water from elsewhere. Our town administrator, Bruce Keiser, in his letter to the USEPA, dated July 3, 2007, wrote, "In addition, as the letters from North Kingstown and Newport have demonstrated, neither of these adjacent municipalities have the ability to provide a continuous source of supply sufficient to meet all of Jamestown water needs."

3. Jamestown's public water system cannot currently be extended to provide service to additional residents on private wells. Islanders all know there is not enough water on Jamestown to meet the public water supply needs, as evidence by shortages and restrictions, to consider adding private well users.

4. In general, Jamestown's geology yields the lowest quantity of groundwater in Rhode Island. Rainwater does not readily penetrate into our soil type so much of our potential rainwater runs off into the ocean.

5. Precipitation that manages to get through our soil is stored in our bedrock that provides ground water for private residential wells and for the town's public water via the municipal wells. Rainwater is retained in two reservoir ponds. Bedrock recharge is a very slow process because of our island's soil conditions.

6. One hundred percent of us on this island are dependent on the bedrock aquifer for water in one way or another: for private wells, for municipal well use, but also because the recharge lands, the wetlands, the reservoirs and the bedrock aquifer are all ultimately interrelated, as noted by EPA's hydrogeologist, Doug Heath.

Sole source aquifer designation would protect our bedrock water now and in the future, protect private and municipal wells, the recharge areas, and the reservoirs, by raising awareness of not only all who now live on Conanicut Island, but those who visit seasonally, and who will, in the future, choose to live, develop, and do business on this fragile aquifer.

If our island receives a formal declaration as Sole Source Aquifer, I would like to see the EPA Sole Source Aquifer designation on our town stationery, on all bills to summer and year-round islanders, and as signage posted at our island's entryways. There are many other ways to do so as well. The Sole Source Aquifer designation is a tool to denote to year-round and summer residents, visitors, and to all tourists, we on this island protect our water supply. Help foster this designation by sending your email or your letter to the EPA today.

Ellen Winsor 736 East Shore Rd.

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