Drinking Water Wells in Rhode Island Contaminated from Industrial Operations

Sept. 10, 2020

The companies that allegedly contaminated drinking water wells in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are not accepting responsibility 

Companies accused of contaminating drinking water wells in North Smithfield, Rhode Island and Millville, Massachusetts are taking steps to reduce public-health risks.

These companies are also urging the property owners to clean up the contamination, according to EcoRI News.

North Smithfield has contaminated sites associated with industrial operations and dumping. According to EcoRI News, approximately 40 locations in town and nearby are considered sources of the water contamination.

The Stamina Mills Superfund site in North Smithfield, which was a textile mill, used the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE). A TCE spill in 1975 was connected to a public water system, putting residents at risk. By 2006, North Smithfield prohibited the use of private wells near this site to prevent further contamination.

Western Sand & Gravel is the third company linked to water contamination. A former gravel pit and liquid-waste disposal site, the site became contaminated by septic and chemical dumping into unlined lagoons and pits between 1975-1979. Approximately 600 people within a mile radius of the Superfund site relied on the groundwater and eight homes were found with contaminated wells.

The two Superfund sites are not suspected of causing the pollution on Mechanic Street in North Smithfield and into Millville, reported EcoRI News.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) currently declined to name the likely polluters of the wells in North Smithfield and Millville. 

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), however, has identified the likely sources of the contamination as sites in North Smithfield. According to the DEP, Philips Electronics and the Polytop Corp. are suspected due to factors including: the direction of the groundwater flow, the location of the pollution, and the high concentrations of the pollutants present in a deep bedrock aquifer.

DEP found the companies liable, ordered them to clean their properties and conduct testing at private and public water supplies within 1,000 feet of the properties, reported EcoRI.

Philips and Polytop dispute the findings. 

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Cristina Tuser