The Narragansett Bay Commission has received a loan from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s WIFIA (Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) Program in the amount of $268.7 million for Phase III of the NBC’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Abatement Program. The loan was announced at the NBC’s Bucklin Point Wastewater Treatment Facility, with Senator Jack Reed, General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, RIDEM Director Janet Coit, and US EPA Region 1 Administrator Dennis Deziel in attendance.
NBC Chairman Vincent Mesolella and Executive Director Laurie Horridge signed the loan documents with USEPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler; its 1.89% interest rate will save NBC ratepayers nearly $100 million dollars, compared with financing the project on the bond market. In conjunction with the loan, the Standard & Poor’s rating agency reaffirmed NBC’s AA- rating and the Kroll Bond Rating Agency assigned a long-term rating of AA with a Stable Outlook for the CSO Phase III WIFIA Loan.
The NBC’s WIFIA loan will help to finance Phase III of the Commission’s federally mandated CSO project, estimated at $760 million. The centerpiece of Phase III is a 30-ft diameter, 2.2-mile long deep rock tunnel under Pawtucket and Central Falls to capture and store storm-related sewage overflows and transport those flows to the NBC’s Bucklin Point Wastewater Treatment Facility for full treatment. The project will protect the water quality in Narragansett Bay, contributing to reducing annual combined sewer overflow volumes by 98% and achieving an 80% reduction in shellfish bed enclosures.
“We know Rhode Islanders value a clean and healthy bay,” said NBC Chairman Vincent Mesolella. “We’re very proud of infrastructure investments Narragansett Bay Commission ratepayers have made over the past two decades to mitigate the century-old issue of CSOs and the NBC is confident that this final phase of the CSO project will result in a bay that will be a beloved resource for our children and grandchildren. The WIFIA loan also ensures that the cost of this ambitious clean water project will be mitigated for our ratepayers.”
Established by the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014, the WIFIA program is a federal loan and guarantee program at EPA that aims to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental credit assistance for regionally and nationally significant projects. EPA’s WIFIA loans allow large and small communities across the country to implement projects to address two national water priorities – providing for clean and safe drinking water including reducing exposure to lead and other contaminants and addressing aging water infrastructure.
CSO Phase III Facts:
- CSO Phase III is divided into four sub-phases. Phase IIIA includes the Pawtucket Tunnel, which is the largest single facility in Phase III, representing approximately 2/3 of the anticipated project cost. The tunnel is an important step towards reaching compliance with NBC’s Consent Agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM)
- Program will protect the water quality in Narragansett Bay, contributing to reducing annual combined sewer overflow volumes by 98% and achieving an 80% reduction in shellfish bed enclosures
- Project will create over 1,700 direct or indirect jobs
- The CSO Phase III Facilities project includes design and/or construction of the following:
- 11,600-ft long deep rock tunnel to provide a storage volume of 58.6 million gallons
- two launching, receiving work shafts
- four drop shafts to divert storm-related flow into the tunnel
- 180-ft deep tunnel pump station to transport flow from the tunnel to the Bucklin Point WWTF for treatment
- several “green infrastructure” projects, providing permeable areas at the surface to absorb stormwater and keep it out of the sewer system
- modifications throughout the sewer system to optimize flow
- Limited areas of sewer separation, where stormwater is directed into a separate pipe from sanitary sewage
- The purpose of the project is to implement the final phase of the federally mandated CSO Abatement Program, significantly reduce CSO volumes in the Bucklin Point service area, and eliminate overflows from a three-month storm (1.614 inches of rain in six hours).