In a significant win for public health, safety, and fresh water supply on Block Island, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Seth Magaziner today announced that the federal government is investing $5,581,000 to upgrade water infrastructure on Block Island.
As an island ecosystem, Block Island relies on rainfall and wells to replenish the island’s supply of freshwater. Additionally, Block Island Water Company uses reverse-osmosis to treat brackish water wells and provide fire protection and potable water supply for residents and businesses.
The new federal funds will flow to the Town of New Shoreham through a $2,509,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development grant and a $3,072,000 low-interest USDA loan. The Town of New Shoreham and the New Shoreham Water District will be responsible for providing $120,000 for the projects, which include:
Adding a 248,000-gallon water storage tank.
Constructing a reverse-osmosis treatment system to produce an additional 144,000 gallons per day of treated water; and
Developing a well field which can generate 100 gallons per minute raw water supply.
With these elements, the Block Island Water Department will:
Increase water storage capacity to 548,000 gallons;
Increase treatment system production to 231,000 gallons per day; and
Total raw water production will exceed 184 gallons per minute.
“A reliable, sustainable supply of clean water is vital to maintaining public health, generating economic activity, and protecting our environment,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who worked with town officials and USDA to cut red tape for Block Island’s grant and loan application. “I am pleased to help deliver these federal funds so Block Island can meet its water needs now and in the future. This is a smart investment in clean, reliable water that is necessary for public health and safety. It’s good for homeowners, local businesses, and tourism. The fire at the Harborside Inn was a solemn reminder of the need to ensure adequate water capacity on Block Island. We’ve got to continue to invest wisely in public health and safety and these water infrastructure upgrades are part of that effort.”
“Block Island faces unique challenges when it comes to providing reliable, affordable utilities to homes and small businesses. The unfortunate fire at the Harborside Inn last summer demonstrated how important water access can be to saving lives and livelihoods,” said Senator Whitehouse, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Building on previous federal investments we’ve secured, this new funding will significantly increase the town’s capacity to supply clean water in abundance to yearround residents and the much larger summer population.”
“Ensuring Block Island residents have access to an abundant, reliable source of clean freshwater is crucial not just for public health, but also public safety,” said Representative Seth Magaziner. “The devastating fire at the Harborside Inn limited water for residents and underscored the need to increase water storage capacity on Block Island. This federal funding will upgrade New Shoreham’s water infrastructure to meet the needs of the community and build long-term resiliency into Block Island’s water systems.”
“I extend the Town of New Shoreham’s gratitude to our Congressional delegation for securing this funding. We also appreciate the assistance of USDA, who worked with the Water Commissioners, Water Superintendent and the Town to procure funding. This will facilitate the ability to secure more water capacity, which is much needed within the Water District for years to come,” said Town Manager Maryanne Crawford.
“There is a growing need for potable water within The New Shoreham Water District due to aging private wells that service both residences and businesses. Also, there are several public projects on the horizon that include affordable housing that require additional water capacity. Thanks to USDA and our congressional delegation for supporting a viable year-round community and tourist economy on Block Island,” said John Breunig, superintendent of Block Island Water Company.
In anticipation of this federal USDA funding becoming available, the Block Island Water Company has begun work on engineering and design. The new water storage tank is expected to take over a year to complete and could be ready by fall of 2024.
In August, Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representative Magaziner delivered a $286,000 federal grant for Block Island from USDA Rural Development to help finance a drinking water and well improvement project. These upgrades will help enable the town to maintain drinking water quality while expanding access for residents and local businesses.
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