At Freedom Bay, They`re Free to Build

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Courtesy of Kaeser Kompressoren GmbH

In Portsmouth, Rhode Island, developers are moving full speed ahead at Freedom Bay – a residential development of luxury townhouses serving the burgeoning over 55 population. It is one of many such communities springing up across the country. Freedom Bay’s approach to waste water treatment, on the other hand, is not as common.

This planned development sits at the edge of protected wetlands that boast walking and hiking trails as well as nature preserves. The site of a former church and small school, the land previously featured an onsite water treatment plant. The developers who purchased the land almost fifteen years ago retained the permit on the dormant facility, believing it might be needed one day.

Portsmouth does not have public sewers and there was no option to tie into the neighboring town’s sewer system. As plans began to take shape for Freedom Bay, the developers decided to reopen the onsite water treatment plant using updated technology. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection (RIDEP) reviewed the initial plans for the new facility. However, the initial engineering firm hired to design and permit the site were unsuccessful due to their lack of experience with plants this size, as well as several other mitigating concerns.

RIDEP maintains very strict requirements for discharging effluent. The Freedom Bay site did not have soils that were well suited for treated effluent disposal due to high water tables and slow perc rates. There was an option to discharge the treated effluent in a stream that ultimately feeds into Narragansett Bay. Most municipalities that discharge into open bodies of water can take advantage of dilution credits. However, the stream in question runs dry for a portion of the year, leaving Freedom Bay with a permit containing very strict dissolved metal limits.

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