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1999 News Releases



Release Date: 12/08/1999
Contact Information: Alice Kaufman, EPA Community Affairs Office, (617) 918-1064

Boston - The New England office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a $1.2 million project to bring clean drinking water to homes in Scituate and Johnston, RI whose water supplies are contaminated with a variety of chemical compounds. The town of Johnston has agreed to provide drinking water to the homes with contaminated water in Scituate as well as the homes in Johnston. Scituate does not have a municipal water supply system. "Safe drinking water is a right in America. No one should expect less. And, while we don't know what caused the contamination to these wells, we will begin installing water lines to tie in the most heavily contaminated wells to the public water supply in Johnston," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England administrator.

Senator Jack Reed stated: "This is a good first step in out effort to deliver clean drinking water to homes with contaminated wells in Scituate and Johnston. I commend EPA and officials from both towns for developing a cooperative plan to assist those who live in the proximity to Johnston's water supply system. I also look forward to working with EPA to address the drinking water needs of affected homes in the Danielson Pike area of North Scituate. Developing safe and affordable water supply alternatives for the many Rhode Islanders who live outside our state's urban areas must remain an important priority."

In October, Reed and officials from EPA and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) toured several homes in Scituate and Johnston with contaminated wells and industrial sites identified as potential sources of contamination.

"DEM has worked closely with the EPA and the towns of Johnston and Scituate to find a remedy for these water supply problems, and will provide whatever support is necessary to insure that water is brought to the affected area as quickly as possible," said DEM Director Jan H. Reitsma. "We would like to offer our appreciation to Senator Reed and the EPA for their assistance in finding a solution to this problem, so that the people of the Peck Hill area will no longer have to rely on bottled drinking water. Our staff will continue to work cooperatively with the Town of Scituate and EPA to propose long-term solutions for the affected homes on Danielson Pike, as well."

Last fall, staff from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) sampled private wells along Peck Hill Road, Shun Pike, and Byron Randall Road. Nine wells were found to have contaminants above drinking water standards. The Rhode Island Department of Health determined that two of the homes had levels of contaminants making the water unsafe for bathing and showering. Another five wells show levels that do not exceed the federal drinking water standards. The DEM is providing bottled water to the homes that exceed the standards. The chemicals DEM identified were trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and cis-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE).

According to EPA, the homes that have the highest levels of contamination will be connected to Johnston's municipal water supply during December and January.

In the next phase of work, EPA and DEM will study the hydrogeology of the area, identify potential sources of contamination and identify the characteristics of the contaminant plumes. This phase includes soil sampling, installation of monitoring wells, and ground water sampling.

In the third phase, EPA will work with DEM and the two towns to extend Johnston's water supply system to serve those homes that are showing contamination levels of concern or those that may reasonably be expected to be contaminated by migrating contaminant plumes.

"Because this work would require Johnston to provide drinking water to its neighboring town of Scituate, we will need to coordinate closely with officials from both communities in the coming months," said Frank Gardner, EPA's on-scene coordinator for the project.