NORTH KINGSTOWN–After an extensive evaluation of the North Kingstown Water Department, the Rochester, New York based MRB Group found the town’s water department and system is “ahead of the curve” for plans to deal with potential natural risks, including tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, as well as man-made risks such as ransomware attacks.
Tim Wales, a water engineer with the MRB Group, told town council members the EPA Risk & Resiliency Assessment — which is required every three years — came back positive for North Kingstown’s emergency preparation and mitigation plan.
The department is self-described as a “medium size municipally owned and operated water system serving a population of approximately 24,000 people with approximately 9,600 service connections. Source water is supplied by 11 water supply wells and pumping stations. The department maintains approximately 175 miles of pipeline, five storage tanks. More than 90 percent of the current water customers are residential.”
“The federal government,” Wales said “requires that a plan be completed and then certified by the EPA by the end of the year.”
A copy of MRB’s report can be found on the town’s website by clicking on the water department and then scrolling down the list of reports.
“The EPA requires that we look at plans as to how the town would deal with malevolent acts manmade or natural,” Wales explained.
MRB looked at everything from the wellhead to the tap, the water towers, water lines, wellheads and distribution system to make sure if anything went awry North Kingstown would be in a good place to deal with them.
“We looked really closely at the cyber system, and we found the town manager and the IT team ready should there be any problems,” Wales added.
MRB also looked at the water department’s financial structure and found it adequate to meet any problems, should they arise.
“The business plan will make sure to keep things working,” Wales added.
“We found the town prepared to head off any problems before they occur,” Wales said.
The water department backs up its data records and stores copies offsite, so a cyber attack will not keep the water from flowing.
Wales said he expects to see an updated assessment plan competed and ready to be certified before the end of the year.
In other business, council members discussed how best to make use of the money it would be receiving through the American Rescue Plan. These funds must be used by Dec. 31, 2024.
Council chair Greg Mancini suggested that he would like to see some of the funds possibly used to line streets for bike lanes, and maybe have a company site bike racks and bikes around town available for use by residents and visitors much like the program in Providence.
Town manager Ralph Mollis cautioned the council that however they finally decide to spend the money that they not create structural debt —which occurs when a town spends one-time money to fund multi-year projects, which then leads to long-term debt to pay for those expenditures.
Mollis said the town is unsure when they will finally get the money, but said it will go into the budget to help pay for some of the costs associated with having to deal with the pandemic.