2013-10-17 / News

Contingency plan needed in case of water emergency

By Margo Sullivan

Jamestown’s water department is working with local police on an instant notification system – using reverse 911 calls – to alert residents in the event of a water advisory.

Town Engineer Mike Gray advised the councilors last week about the steps the local water department is taking following the recent boil-water advisory that the state Health Department issued in September for Kent County.

Jamestown was not impacted by that advisory, he explained.

“To my knowledge, the town of Jamestown has not had a boilwater advisory,” he reported.

However, Jamestown currently lacks an automated system to notify customers about a problem. By contrast, Providence has a system. The Kent County water system was criticized for failing to notify its customers directly after some people, unaware of the advisory, drank the water and became ill.

Kent County customers went under an advisory after coliform bacteria was found in the water. The bacteria come from sewage or animal waste, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and causes illnesses. Symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, cramps, jaundice, headache and fatigue.

Gray said the water department takes samples from the system every month. The EPA requires three samples monthly, but the water department goes beyond the minimum requirement and collects five. The number of samples is based on population, Gray said. They are used to conduct tests for contamination. The maximum amount of total coliform allowed is zero, he indicated.

Tests are conducted on the same day the samples are collected. Although the results take 24 hours to process, the lab conducts a preliminary check to alert the town if the sample is “suspicious” or likely to come back positive. If there is a problem, the water department is required to alert the public within 24 hours. Past alerts have been publicized over television news, he said.

“I am working with the police chief on a system through reverse 911 to contact our customers directly by phone,” he said.

In other business, Gray told the council that a new fire hydrant is going to be installed on Racquet Road at the expense of a family who applied for a water extension.

Kim and Jeff Westcott of 186 Racquet Road agreed to pay all the costs to extend the water line passed their home, including the cost associated with the hydrant.

The Westcotts said they want to hook up to town water because their well water has been compromised. The couple’s home is on well water, but it’s hard water with high iron readings.

“Recently the wellhead had an infestation and tested positive for coliform,” she said. “It has been treated and we are awaiting tests of water quality. During wet seasons there is standing ground water in the vicinity of the wellhead. The rusty water has been damaging the appliances and does not appear to be correctable by softening.”

Because town water is distributed in the neighborhood, she would like to hook up to the town service.

The Town Council voted to extend water service to the Westcotts’ home. Gray recommended granting the extension on the understanding that the Westcotts would pay for all the work.

The request still had to go before the Town Council – sitting as water and sewer commissioners – because the Westcott property is in the rural water district. Any extensions to that area must be specifically board approved per the local ordinance and also be consistent with the comprehensive plan.

According to the plan, the main water service area is in the village. Additional service to the rural district may be available, but the service is restricted by ordinance and subject to the approval of the water and sewer board.

According to the package presented with the Westcotts’ application, the Planning Department reviewed the information and determined the request was consistent with several comprehensive plan goals, specifically to provide public services to protect health, safety and welfare of the residents.

The Westcotts have agreed to pay all the connection costs plus $3,000 for the extension fee.

“All costs for extension and connection must be borne by the applicant,” Gray wrote in a memo the councilors. He said the work could not qualify as one of the town’s capital projects.

“There are many projects that we have identified within the urban district for water-main replacement and upgrades that prohibits the town from providing resources to the project at this time,” he wrote.

Gray indicated the extension would measure 500 linear feet and estimated the total project would cost between $10,000 and $15,000.

According to Gray, many other homes in the area have town water service.

“Unfortunately, they are individual water services and not a water main,” he explained. “The municipal water main ends at the intersection approximately 500 linear feet to the southwest of the subject property, therefore an extension will be necessary.”

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