Water Industry News
City breaks ground on water plant
With turns of their ceremonial shovels, a long line of smiling officials
chucked several spades of dirt Tuesday to mark groundbreaking for the
city’s new $45 million water treatment plant.
occasion was marked by short speeches, a long list of thank-you’s and a
catered clambake under a tent -- paid for by the project’s vendor, Earth
Tech -- outside Pawtucket Water Supply Board headquarters on Branch
Street, behind which the new 35,000-square-foot plant will be built.
The contract calls for cutting the ribbon on the new
plant, able to process 25 million gallons a day, in mid-March 2006.
It will replace the antiquated facility a half-mile north in Cumberland,
which has required expensive Band-Aid repairs and was judged unable to
meet accelerating federal water quality standards.
It remains to be seen whether the project start will also mark the burying
of the hatchet between Mayor James E. Doyle, who favored the Pawtucket
Water Supply Board’s choice of Earth Tech, and the City Council, most of
whom had backed rival vendor USFilter.
Doyle and Council President John Barry did not shy away from gentle
mentions of the controversy, which took a court decision to settle,
delayed the project two years and added several hundred thousand dollars
to the cost.
The long series of delays also apparently left Pamela Marchand, PWSB chief
engineer and general manager, with a healthy case of have-to-see-it-to-
"When the ribbon-cutting ceremony comes," she smiled,
"I’ll really be jumping for joy." Marchand noted members of
the council "disagreed with us at times but did come through with the
Her long list of thank-you’s also included, among others CDM
Engineering, city staff from permitting to zoning, financial and legal
advisors, labor representatives, the Pawtucket Building Authority,
Senators Lincoln Chafee and Sen. Jack Reed, and even "the newspaper
people, who have been involved from the beginning," keeping the
Doyle joked the shovels were made of rubber so any political adversaries
would "not go at each other." Doyle recalled that the old plant
was started while Thomas McCoy was mayor, when a great hurricane hit the
state, in the year of Doyle’s birth -- 1938.
Doyle said since becoming mayor, "the most frustrating thing that
ever came across my desk," and the toughest to fix, "was the
But he noted that besides the new treatment plant, the 10-year project to
clean and line old pipes will give users the benefit of a "state of
the art" water system, "managed by one of the leading companies
in the industry."
Barry joked Dole had kept a pledge by revealing his advanced years:
"The City Council said we wouldn’t go along with this deal until
(Doyle) admitted he was present at the first groundbreaking."
Barry said the council’s chief concern was insuring quality water, a
process that necessarily took a long time, "and we look forward to
the ribbon-cutting as the mayor does."
Earth Tech is now responsible for the existing facility and will design,
build and operate the new privatized plant under a 20-year agreement. At
its peak, the project will employ about 250 workers.
PWSB Chairwoman Mary Tetzner said, "When this process began, we never
expected it would take five years to put a shovel in the ground," but
she was pleased with the "partnership" with Earth Tech.
An agreement in the privatization move governing former PWSB workers now
employed by Earth Tech, which is based in Long Beach, Calif., is now being
hammered out. "We’re moving along. They recognize the union and
they’re negotiating in good faith," said union official Joseph
Peckham of Council 94 AFSCME.
City permits have already been issued for the plant’s construction; only
one state Department of Health approval remains for the full go-ahead.
Earth Tech is also installing a back-access fire road and three hydrants,
as sought by the Fire Department, at its own cost.
Ceremony over, the gathering settled down to a feast catered by B&M
Clambake Co., of Pawtucket, of grilled steak and chicken, shrimp, chowder,
clam cakes and watermelon, at a cost to Earth Tech of about $10,000.