By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — The public hearing for a proposal to sell water to a controversial fossil-fuel power plant is coming together with a major new development: Instead of a pipeline carrying water 14 miles to the site in Burrilliville, the water would be delivered via tanker trucks.
According to the developer of the power plant, Chicago-based Invenergy Thermal Development LLC, two to three trucks will deliver 15,000-20,000 gallons of water daily from a new Woonsocket facility to Burrillville.
“The City of Woonsocket has more than enough water to go around. Our use represents less than one percent of the city’s available supply,” according to an Invenergy fact sheet about the project.
Invenergy also said the tanker trucks would be less disruptive than digging the originally proposed 14-mile pipeline along roads. But opponents of the proposed 900-megwatt natural-gas/diesel facility have said truck traffic to and from the power plant, such as those carrying diesel fuel, pose health, safety and traffic problems for the public, and would stress old, narrow roads and small bridges.
"The reported proposal that calls for water to be trucked raises important traffic and safety concerns for Burrillville, Woonsocket and any community in between. These issues will need to be fully vetted before this matter is concluded," said Burrillville Town Manager Michael C. Wood in a statement to ecoRI News.
The financial benefits of the proposal are highlighted in a press release from Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt. It states that the city would be paid the market rate for the water Invenergy would collect at a yet-to-be-built water transport facility. The location of this fill-up station has yet to be announced. It would employ three people. In lieu of taxes, Invenergy would pay Woonsocket $200,000 annually for 20 years. The city would receive an additional $500,000 a year, with a 3 percent annual increase to the city’s general fund. Additionally, Invenergy would pay $200,000 annually for five years into a scholarship fund for vocational-technical training or to pay for school athletic fields.
At a recent City Council meeting, opponents of the project detailed several health risks the power plant poses for the region, as well as the threat to the city’s water supply. Woonsocket gets it water from local reservoirs.
Invenergy has been seeking water to cool the Clear River Energy Center since last August, when two water supply boards in Burrillville declined the company’s requests for local water. Both maintained that the use of water posed health risks and threatened to reduce public availability of water.
"We are hopeful that Woonsocket, as it considers a proposal to provide water for the facility, will also closely examine the information from our experts regarding the potential damage this polluting monster will do," Wood said. "Our studies have shown that the plant could jeopardize our region’s environment, clean water and safety. The impact will be felt not just by Burrillville, but by surrounding communities as well – including Woonsocket.
Invenergy is under a tight deadline to find a water supply. In October, the state Energy Facilities Siting Board granted the company a 90-day extension to find its water source. The deadline is Jan. 11.
A public meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Woonsocket High School, 777 Cass Ave. The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal at its Jan. 9 meeting.
“It is of the utmost importance for Woonsocket residents to be fully informed and understand the details of the offer, and attendance is strongly encouraged,” Baldelli-Hunt wrote in the press release.