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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ocean State Settles Water Pollution Claims

PROVIDENCE (CN) - Rhode Island has agreed to fall in line amid claims that a decade of neglecting its stormwater drainage network has sullied state waters.

"The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has ignored its obligation to the people of Rhode Island to protect the waterways of this state," U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said in a statement Thursday. "Instead, through its neglect and indifference - through its failure to inspect and maintain its storm water run-off system - RIDOT has contributed to the pollution of those waters."

Neronha's announcement coincided with the government's filing of a complaint and settlement with the state transportation department over the storm drains, pipes, catch basins, manholes, outfalls and other drainage system components that bring stormwater runoff from roadways to approximately 235 bodies of water in Rhode Island.

The government says the RIDOT's poorly maintained drainage systems are contaminated with untreated wastewater, which gets washed away with the stormwater runoff, polluting Rhode Island's rivers, bays, ponds, coves, creeks and brooks, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Though the RIDOT has received numerous notices of contaminants in its stormwater since 2004, it has not taken steps to correct the underlying issues causing the contagion, according to the complaint.

The government says Rhode Island needs to evaluate the effect of its systems on Rhode Island's waterways, determine where the contamination is happening, repair its drainage systems, and increase street sweeping to keep the roadways' drainage systems as clean as possible.

The consent decree filed simultaneously with the 23-page complaint requires the state to immediately begin work on repairing, restoring and improving its systems ti achieve Clean Water Act compliance.

Curt Spalding, the regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's New England office, applauded the evenness of the deal, saying it is "designed to produce environmental improvements on a timeline that is aggressive, but not unrealistic for RIDOT."

"This is good news for everyone who enjoys the natural beauty and recreational abundance of Rhode Island," Spalding added in a statement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha is leading the prosecution.

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