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The Scituate Reservoir is located in north-central Rhode Island and supplies drinking water to more than two-thirds of Rhode Island's population. The reservoir's watershed is approximately 94 square miles in total size and extends across six municipalities. The Scituate Reservoir and six contributory reservoirs have a total surface area of 4,355 acres, with other surface water bodies (e.g. ponds) occupying an additional 334 acres of the watershed. Approximately 141 miles of streams and brooks feed and inter-connect the reservoir system. This surface water system currently supplies about one-half of Rhode Island's potable water demand.

A number of roads within the watershed are used by increasing volumes of both residential and commercial traffic. Portions of the watershed not owned by Providence Water are subject to ongoing development pressure, particularly due to the watershed's proximity to the City of Providence. Development pressures are primarily concentrated along major transportation corridors located adjacent to the Scituate Reservoir. As development pressure in the watershed continue to increase, the potential for impacts to water quality will increase.

A Water Quality Protection Plan has been developed for this watershed to protect all sources and potential sources of drinking water are protected to the maximum extent feasible. This plan was prepared in accordance with the Rhode Island Water Quality Protection Act. The first plan was approved by the Rhode Island Water Resources Board in 1989 and was updated in 1995. This paper describes Fuss & O'Neill's contribution to implementing the remaining action items contained in the plan. Some of these items include the following:

a program to install spill containment boom anchor pins at 37 watercourses crossings of major roadways within the watershed and identification of upgradient subbasin boundaries to assist spill response personnel,

a mail survey of watershed residents to gather information on conditions and activities affecting water quality within the watershed,

an inventory of chemical use, storage and transport within the watershed,

an investigation into current disposal practices for household hazardous waste generated within the watershed, including the development of recommendations to increase participation in, and the effectiveness of, existing collection programs,

a voluntary environmental audit program of businesses and facilities within the watershed to document site conditions and activities and raise awareness among facility managers of conditions affecting watershed resources,

an investigation to determine the number of above-ground and underground fuel storage tanks in the watershed, including development of recommendations for a registration and tracking program, and

a review of best management practices in use by state and municipal public works departments in the watershed and development of recommendations for future monitoring and studies to increase the use and effectiveness of best management practices in the watershed.

Some of the interesting findings from these efforts are briefly presented below.

An inventory of residential underground storage tanks (USTs) and aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) in the watershed was performed by statistical analyses and a direct mail survey of residences in the watershed. Results indicate that approximately 75 percent of the homes in the watershed use oil heat, and approximately 4 percent of the households in the watershed have heating oil USTs. Based on these figures, it is estimated that there are approximately 230 residential heating oil USTs and 4,460 residences with at least one residential heating oil AST in the watershed.

A mail survey of watershed residents was performed to gather information on conditions and practices that may affect the reservoir system's water quality. Information obtained from the survey included septic system and household chemical disposal practices, heating energy sources and type of heating oil tanks, number of occupants and animals, vehicle maintenance and business waste management practices, and fertilizer and pesticide use. A total of 998 responses were received from the 5,470 survey cards sent out (an 18 percent return rate). Information gained from these responses was incorporated into a geographic information system (GIS) database for Providence Water's future use. Significant findings from the survey include

The average age of septic systems on watershed properties is 21 years.

Approximately 92 percent of households reported using oil as a heating source. Of these households, a majority reported having aboveground storage tanks installed in the basement and only 4 percent reported having underground storage tanks.

Approximately 59 percent of households in the watershed reported having at least one pet or farm animal.

Approximately 54 percent of all respondents reported having applied fertilizers or pesticides on their property.

Approximately 37 percent of these households applied fertilizers and/or pesticides themselves or by a nonprofessional service.

Existing collection and disposal options available to watershed residents for disposal of household hazardous wastes were investigated. Three options were presented to Providence Water to improve the availability and use of collection programs in the watershed: implementing its own collection program; assisting watershed municipalities in implementing their own collection programs; and improving watershed residents' awareness of other non-municipal collection programs. Based on the findings of the investigation, Providence Water was advised to establish a new component of the existing public outreach program operated by the Northern Rhode Island Conservation District before selecting and implementing aby of the options. The goals of this new component would be to raise public awareness within the watershed of the following items:

identifying household hazardous materials and safe alternatives to using these materials,

specifying proper storage measures and locations for household hazardous materials and wastes, and

identifying acceptable disposal options for household hazardous wastes, including dates and locations of collection sites, and contact information for further information.

A voluntary commercial and industrial facility environmental audit program was implemented to evaluate site practices and conditions at 62 commercial and industrial facilities in the watershed. The audits focused on hazardous material/waste handling, storage and disposal practices, septic system maintenance practices, fertilization and pesticide application practices, and liquid storage container management practices. Significant findings of the audit include:

Vehicle maintenance and auto body facilities, including automotive scrap yards, reported the greatest number of hazardous materials/waste stored and handled on-site.

Four facilities reported conducting painting operations.

Three facilities reported using fertilizers and pesticides (apple orchard, marine paint shop, and golf course).

Six of the facilities reported having no septic system on the property, portable sanitary facilities, or septic tanks with no outlet. None of the facilities with septic systems reported leaks or breakout. A majority of the facilities' septic tanks are pumped out at least once every three years.

Only two facilities had a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).

Best management practice (BMP) manuals and stormwater management documents applicable to the watershed were reviewed and summarized for Providence Water's future use. Existing research studies on stormwater and water quality impacts associated with development were also reviewed and summarized. Interviews were conducted with state and municipal officials responsible for maintaining roads within the watershed to document existing maintenance practices and responsibilities for stormwater structures. Recommendations were provided to improve the effectiveness of these practices. Water quality data were reviewed to identify impacted areas of the Scituate Reservoir watershed, and a recommended stormwater monitoring program was developed to target potential sources of water quality impacts. Recommendations for future studies to assess pollution sources and water quality impacts in the watershed were also provided.

Information gained during completion of the audit program was incorporated into Providence Water's existing GIS database as point entities. Information was also incorporated into a standalone “state of the watershed” report which will be updated annually by Providence Water as part of its continuing effort to evaluate watershed conditions and identify existing and potential threats to water quality in the Scituate Reservoir watershed.

This paper describes the completion nine recommendations of the 1995 plan. These action items focused on improving Providence Water Supply Board's ability to acquire and manage information on watershed resources and conditions, educate watershed residents and commercial establishments on practices and conditions affecting water quality within the watershed, and work effectively with local and state boards and agencies and other organizations whose goals include the protection of the state's primary drinking water resource.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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