NARRAGANSETT – Cassius Shuman, a resident of Sweet Birch Trail in Pettaquamscutt, has seen brown, cloudy, or bubbly water flowing from the tap in his home intermittently since April. The Narragansett resident is joined by others in the north end experiencing water quality issues and calling on the town to resolve the issue.
“Would you want to drink or bathe in that water?” asked Shuman, referring to a photo of a brownish liquid that had come from his faucet a few days prior. “The water we are now being supplied looks a bubbly white. Not a normal, clear color.”
Shuman and his partner, Michelle, began experiencing brownish-colored water from their tap on a semi-regular basis since April, forcing them at times to give their two-year-old a sponge bath. Shuman notified the Town of Narragansett of the issue, which, according to the north end resident, came to his residence, tested the water, “found no contaminates,” and said there was nothing the town could do, as the water was supplied by the Town of North Kingstown.
While they pay their quarterly water bills to the Town of Narragansett, many local water customers have their water supplied by the Town of North Kingstown, which has a partnership with Narragansett for providing water to Narragansett customers.
On social media, many residents have posted images of the water being supplied to their homes – brown and altogether unfit for practical consumption or sanitary use.
“They had better pro rate the quarterly water bills for the north end,” wrote one user on July 1. “It has been since Saturday that there hasn’t been clean water. Everything is discolored and stained.”
“I thought it was just iced tea flowing from the tap, it’s not?” wrote another.
One user on social media on Wednesday, July 8, posted a photo of his bathtub emitting brown water, stating “Really Narragansett? Flush the hydrants at night or something. I have to shower before work, can’t shower in this crap.”
On June 27, a water main broke in the north end of Narragansett, resulting with brown water being consistently supplied to Shuman’s home for a period of two days. Two days later, the Town of Narragansett fixed the break, but Shuman said the water he is now being supplied is a cloudy, bubbly white.
According to the Town of Narragansett, the white, bubbly water some customers are currently experiencing is safe to consume.
“The ‘bubbly, cloudy white’ conditions are due to aeration that occurred in the North Kingstown and Narragansett water systems during the water main breaks and subsequent flushing operations,” said Narragansett Town Engineer Jonathan Gerhard. “The trapped air is not harmful and clears quickly when the water is left to stand still after dispensing from the tap. This condition will resolve completely as the aerated water is withdrawn from the system through normal use.”
In a statement, the Town of North Kingstown said it was aware of the issue and was working to resolve it.
“We’re definitely aware of the water quality issues in the Narragansett north end,” said Tim Cranston, North Kingstown Water Director. “What’s going on at this present time has to do with Narragansett doing their annual flushing program down in that area. The Town of North Kingstown has been working actively to resolve the issue with water and discolored water in the system, both for Narragansett customers and our customers in Saunderstown.”
“What we have done is taken some time to study the situation and change our infrastructure around so we’re now supplying the area with water from our Slocum wellfield and we have mothballed the Saunderstown wells that were supplying Narragansett for the many decades we’ve had this agreement with them,” Cranston continued. “The water quality is very different in the Slocum wellfield, it has no dissolved iron in it. The wellfield in Saunderstown had these dissolved metals in them since the very beginning at very low levels, but they can be an issue with the addition of an oxidizing agent like chlorine, and that’s what Narragansett has had to do based on other issues they’ve had down there.”
According to Cranston, North Kingstown had been in contact with Narragansett Town Manager Jim Tierney and Gerhard regarding the issue, and the two entities are working toward the above solution.
The Town of Narragansett said the cause of the issue was discolored water being supplied by the Town of North Kingstown, a problem that has persisted for decades.
“These issues have been recurring intermittently for longer than any current Narragansett Water personnel have served in their present position, and for at least 20 years based on recollection of Town personnel,” said Gerhard.
According to Gerhard, between May 26, 2016 and June 3, 2020, the Town of Narragansett’s Water Division had responded to complaints of discolored water in the north end not attributed to a specific emergency, such as a water main break, on 19 separate occasions. Seven of these responses occurred since July 3, 2020, with “ the water conditions becoming noticeably worse than events in the past,” according to the town engineer.
When asked what Narragansett was doing to remedy the situation, Gerhard said the town’s only course of action once discolored water appears in their system is to flush hydrants in the affected areas.
In a July 2 posting to its website, the Town of Narragansett, in announcing hydrant flushes that were to occur on July 7 through July 9, acknowledged the water quality issue and apologized for the inconvenience
“This is a regular maintenance procedure to remove sediment that accumulates in the water main and to check the operation of all fire hydrants,” wrote the town. “Emergency flushing on July 1, 2020 was conducted to remove discolored water from our system as quickly as possible after North Kingstown had flushed their system and was providing clear water to us. We need to perform additional flushing to remove remaining sediment from our system.”
“Customers may experience discolored water and lower than normal water pressure due to the flushing activities,” the post continues. “If you experience discolored water, wait to allow us to finish flushing your neighborhood then run your cold-water hose spigots and faucets until the water clears. Please note that the water remaining in the system may still appear cloudy or milky due to aeration that occurred in the North Kingstown and Narragansett water systems during the water main breaks and flushing operations.”
The Town of Narragansett is also procuring monitoring equipment to provide alarm notification of discolored water at the North Kingstown connection point to allow for an immediate response, according to Gerhard.
“Permanent resolution is dependent upon the efficacy of the North Kingstown operational changes, and we will be able to monitor the water quality with the new equipment to be installed,” said Gerhard, referring to North Kingstown’s switching over of the wells it uses to provide Narragansett residents water. “Unfortunately, we do not have our own well sources and do not have direct control over the condition of the water that North Kingstown supplies to us, and our water system is configured such that North Kingstown is the sole supplier to that area of North End. We have met with North Kingstown regarding the unacceptable condition of the water they have been supplying to us, and they have indicated that operational changes have been implemented to address the situation as noted above.”
The Town of Narragansett said it would review records in an effort to discern if accommodations could be made by those affected by the issue.
“We will be evaluating the recent events and records to determine if the lost water can be accounted for in customer billings and in our charges due to North Kingstown,” said Gerhard.
Narragansett Water has 5,334 customers as of April 2020. Of those, 837 customers in the north end have their water supplied by North Kingstown.
“We’re on top of it,” said Cranston. “Different water is now being supplied to the affected areas and this change should resolve the issue.”