By Anthony Arrigo
SNA board member

The installation of temporary water-supply pipes above ground in the Summit neighborhood is one more example of the Narragansett Bay Commission’s (NBC) construction work on the Combined Sewer Overflow Program (CSOP), the affects of which will be felt for three to four more years.

The CSOP is a $500-million-plus project required to meet standards set by the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act to reduce the overflow of sewage into regional waterways. Roughly 10 years ago, the NBC embarked on a comprehensive abatement program in exchange for a waiver from federal non-compliance fines, which could have been as much as $25,000 per day, per violation. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Currently, when there is heavy rain, the capacity of the existing pipes is quickly overwhelmed, causing raw sewage to discharge into the Seekonk River and Narragansett Bay. This happened 72 times last year, according to the NBC. The CSOP is designed to eliminate overflow from anything less than a “three-month” storm of 1.64 inches in 6 hours.

Phase one of the CSOP placed a deep, high-capacity sewage tunnel under the city of Providence, which the NBC estimates has kept 4 billion gallons of raw sewage out of the region’s waterways in the past four years. Phase two, now in progress, will separate the street-level storm drains from the municipal sewer system.

Be prepared for construction throughout the summer as North Main Street undergoes major work according to the following schedule:
From First Street to Sixth Street, June-July 2012;
From Seventh to Ninth, plus Mathilda and Cemetery, August-September;
From Colonial to Stenton and Tenth to Hillside, October-November;
From Third to Fourth plus Frost, April-May 2013.
The numbered streets running east-west between North Main and Hope have not gone out to bid yet, so those will likely be dug up sometime next year.

To allow the sewers to be upgraded, nearly all of the old, inflexible metal gas pipes had to be replaced with flexible high-density plastic lines that could withstand the shaking and shifting of the ground caused by sewage construction. This work has largely been completed. Excavation between Rochambeau and Chase Streets for sewer replacement will begin in summer, 2013.

There will be temporary paving patch jobs to the streets until all of the sewer work is complete, letting the streets “winter over,” then doing permanent “curb-to-curb” repaving sometime in 2015. However, program manager Joe Pratt said at a presentation to area residents in March at Summit Commons that the work had not been progressing as quickly as they’d hoped.

Pratt also said that homeowners will be reimbursed if construction damages their pipes but that the cost to individual ratepayers for the entire project is hard to determine right now as borrowing costs over 20 years have to be figured in. He promised that conditions would be restored to what they were before construction started except that the water of Rhode Island would be “fishable and swimable” within the mandate of the U.S. Clean Water Act.

Residents can check for updates on NBC’s Facebook page at
For specific questions, contact Jamie Samons, NBC Public Affairs, at or (401)461-8848 x 377.
The project identifier is Contract 303.06C, so if you Google that, you can find more information, including NBC meeting minutes.

CSOP project manager Joe Pratt briefs Summit neighbors at a public meeting in March.