City of Providence commits to major investment in the City’s stormwater infrastructure

City of Providence Commits to Major Investment in the City’s Stormwater Infrastructure  

PROVIDENCE, RI – Monday, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza signed an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to bring the City’s Stormwater Management System into compliance with its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit (MS4). Per the terms of the agreement, in the next seven years, the City will significantly increase investments in the stormwater management system and infrastructure. These improvements will greatly upgrade the function of the system, resulting in cleaner waterways, reduced flooding in our neighborhoods, and will prevent the buildup of sediment in Waterplace Park. 

“By making these critical investments in our city systems, we are addressing an overlooked structural issue, protecting our waterways, and planning for the long term." said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “This was a collaborative project and I want to thank Director Coit and her team at RIDEM for the countless hours spent on crafting this agreement with my staff, as well as City Council for their role in authorizing this deal.”

“I want to thank Mayor Elorza for his leadership on this issue and give credit to the Providence City Council for committing to taking action to reduce stormwater runoff from the City of Providence,” said DEM Director Janet Coit.  “DEM’s Agreement with Providence ensures our capital city will make needed investments in stormwater management and infrastructure that will ultimately bring the City into compliance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act, resulting in reduced flooding and improved conditions in local waterways."

“Rhode Islanders have made important advances in cleaning up Narragansett Bay and our local waters; yet more attention is needed to address pollutants from stormwater sources that contribute to beach closures, shellfish harvesting restrictions, and degrade the quality of our waters for marine life and people,” Coit added. “Our economy and communities depend on the protection of these precious resources. Stormwater runoff from urbanized areas is a significant source of water pollution, and I look forward to the progress that will be made as a result of this Agreement.  We must remain vigilant.”    
The agreement was signed following the City having been issued a Notice of Violation from RIDEM for being out of compliance with five provisions of its stormwater (MS4) permit. Normally, such action would trigger enforcement action, including fines of up to $25,000 per day per violation. However, after the collaborative efforts between the City and RIDEM Director Coit a consent agreement was developed as an alternative. 

“With the passage of this agreement by the Providence City Council, we can begin to address long deferred investment in earnest, and improve practices that over the life of the agreement will bring us into compliance with both state and federal law,” added Council President Luis Aponte. 

Barnaby Evans, Executive Artistic Director, also commented on the agreement saying, "The Mayor's and the City Council's leadership to improve storm water management in the City is a welcome and important move toward solving the long-standing problem of siltation filling in the rivers of downtown Providence - the rivers that made Capital Center such a success with $4 billion in public and private investment, thousands of new jobs, and WaterFire." 

As part of the agreement, the City of Providence will be taking key steps to improve documentation and management of its stormwater system. Specific measures include more frequent street sweeping and cleaning of the City’s twelve thousand catch basins; increased public engagement around stormwater pollution prevention; and implementation of green infrastructure projects in Roger Williams Park. In lieu of a fine that was assessed at $175,000, the City agreed to implement three Supplemental Environmental Projects: 

1) Educational signage for green infrastructure projects throughout the city;
2) Irving Avenue Seekonk River Revitalization project;
3) Restoration of Riverside Park.  

This investment was included in the recently released Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a five-year program of planned improvements to Providence’s public infrastructure. The goal of the CIP is to facilitate and coordinate future capital improvements within the City’s current and future financial framework while creating a predictable and appropriate list of planned investments.

Specifically, the system upgrades outlined by the agreement and within the CIP, improve access to and quality of, waterways in Providence. Over the past few years, the City has increased street sweeping and catch basin cleaning and most recently removed 728 tons of debris from the City’s catch basins. 

(release from City of Providence)