2008-03-20 / Letters to the Editor

Support SSA designation

On Tuesday evening, March 11, I had the opportunity to sit in on a Jamestown Conservation Committee meeting, during which the members of the committee discussed and deliberated, among other things, the value and merits of the EPA's Sole Source Aquifer (SSA) designation for Conanicut Island and Jamestown. I was pleased to see that the committee members voted 6-1 in favor of going forward with a recommendation to the Town Council in favor of SSA designation. I highly applaud the committee's work, and wholeheartedly endorse their decision.

As one who lives on the northern side of Conanicut Island, I have a very personal stake in the quality, purity and safety of the potable water source that my private well draws from the aquifer below. Over the last two years, I have observed extensive debate on the merits, both pro and con, of this recommended SSA designation for Jamestown by Town Council leadership, by the Conservation Committee members, by EPA and RI DEM technical experts, and by many concerned members of our community. I am pleased to note that the vast majority of these peoples are highly in favor of this designation.

But for the few doubting Thomases, I would like them to consider two things that might help them re-assess their position and sway their opinion. Check with the enlightened leadership in similar island communities off the New England coast (e.g., Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and islands off the coast of Maine) who have obtained this EPA designation over the last 25 years, to determine their perspectives and the empirical lessons learned. My guess is that the vast majority of them have found the SSA designation to be of great long-term benefit for their communities.

A comprehensive, credible "cost" vs. benefit analysis on the merits of SSA designation would have to take into consideration the "cost avoidance" value attributable to just one single "failure" in keeping our aquifer safe. This "cost" could be enormous and could devastate the community. We have to promote zero tolerance for any circumstances that could result in tangible risks that threaten the safety of our sole source water supply.

Given this ominous era of global warming and the ever-increasing and chronic shortages of potable water at the local, regional, national and international levels, we all have the grave responsibility to be informed citizens and to make smart decisions about the present and future of our precious singlesource water supply….for it will affect our lives and our livelihood for generations to come.

John G. Shannon 49 Columbia Lane

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