ecoRI News in Brief


Compiled by ecoRI News staff
Aug. 15, 2022

Burrillville Battery Storage Facility Begins Operation

BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — A new utility-scale battery storage facility, the first of its kind in the state, has begun operation, giving local ratepayers a minor boost.

The project is a collaboration between the Pascoag Utility District and energy storage developer Agilitas Energy, a company based in Massachusetts. The site will store 3 megawatts of power from which the utility district can draw during peak load times.

The project occupies 1,600 square feet in the back of a parking lot of an industrial park just off South Main Street. Local utility officials expect it to increase the reliability of the local grid that Pascoag Utility District manages, while minimizing the financial impact to ratepayers.

Pascoag Utility District has 4,800 ratepayers in Harrisville and Pascoag. The electricity is fed into the villages from two 5-mile-long feeder lines — a main line and an additional line for backup in case the main line fails — from a National Grid substation in Nasonville to a district-owned grid in Pascoag.

The two lines only have a capacity of 13.8 kilovolts each, which equals just above 13 kilowatts. During the hot summer months, when residents are cranking up the air conditioning, the district can come close to overwhelming the maximum capacity on the feeder lines.

Agilitas Energy fronted the cost for the battery, choosing to recoup its investment on the back end. The district should see cheaper power from lower peak load times and lower transmission costs that will save ratepayers in the long run. Agilitas, in exchange for fronting the capital for the battery, agreed to split the savings with the district in perpetuity, although the savings will only last as long as the battery, estimated to be about 15 years.

Pascoag Utility District received a $1.4 million loan from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank and an additional $250,000 grant from the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources to pay off the cost of the substation upgrades.

Gov. Dan McKee will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the project reaching commercial operation at noon Monday in Pascoag.

Aug. 11, 2022

Rhode Island Resolves Another Lawsuit Over MTBE Pollution

PROVIDENCE — That state has resolved its lawsuit against three of the nation’s largest refiners of gasoline, Attorney General Peter Neronha announced today.

The case, filed in September 2016, alleged that Chevron, Irving, and Valero, along with several other refiners, caused pollution of Rhode Island’s soil and groundwater with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE).

As a part of the settlement, the companies will pay a combined $1.775 million — Chevron ($175,000), Irving ($625,000), and Valero ($975,000) — which will be dedicated to emergency response and ongoing MTBE contamination remediation efforts by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Nerohna’s office is responsible for overseeing the distribution and use of the settlement money.

Earlier this year, Rhode Island entered into separate settlements with other major refiners, totaling about $17 million, for their role in MTBE contamination, including Shell, Sunoco, CITGO, Hess, Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA Inc. (TPRI), Marathon, and Conoco. The total amount recovered by Rhode Island from the MTBE litigation totals nearly $19 million.

Remaining major gas refinery defendants in Rhode Island’s lawsuit include British Petroleum (BP) and ExxonMobil. Litigation against these companies remains ongoing, according to the AG’s office.

For decades, MTBE has leaked from underground storage tanks such as those typically found at gas stations and contaminated groundwater and soils. Research shows that MTBE’s presence in drinking water, even at extremely low levels, can pose serious health risks. MTBE can give water a strong turpentine-like taste and odor, its removal is costly, and it is considered a probable human carcinogen. Rhode Island banned the use of MTBE in 2007, but MTBE continues to contaminate portions of groundwater throughout the state.

The state’s lawsuit alleges the gas companies promoted, marketed, distributed, supplied, and sold gasoline and other petroleum products containing MTBE when they knew, or reasonably should have known, that MTBE would be released into the environment and cause contamination in Rhode Island’s water supply, threatening public health.

In 2011, a class action resulted in a separate settlement with ExxonMobile for $7 million, stemming from a 2001 MTBE contamination of Pascoag’s water supply. After MTBE was detected in Pascoag’s drinking water, the village’s only well was shut down, leaving residents without a supply of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Levels of MTBE measured in a nearby bedrock aquifer reached concentrations up to 1,000 times higher than approved drinking water limits.

Aug. 9, 2022

Most of Massachusetts in Critical Drought Conditions

Most of Massachusetts is experiencing significant to critical drought conditions. (EEA)

Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) secretary Beth Card has declared the Connecticut River Valley and Southeast regions of Massachusetts will join the Northeast and Central regions as a Level 3-Critical Drought. The Cape Cod Region will elevate to a Level 2-Significant Drought, and the Islands and Western regions will remain at a Level 1-Mild Drought.

As outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, a Level-3 Critical Drought and a Level 2-Significant Drought calls for the convening of an interagency Mission Group, which has already began to meet, to more closely coordinate on drought assessments, impacts, and response.

“With the majority of the state now experiencing a Level-3-Critical Drought, it is incredibly important that we all practice water conservation and adhere to local requirements and recommendations in order avoid over stressing our water resources,” Card said. “Efforts to minimize water usage now will help our water systems to rebound more quickly, and ensure that essential public health, safety and environmental needs continue to be met.”

July experienced minimal precipitation and high temperatures throughout the state. Rainfall was the lowest across eastern Massachusetts, particularly within Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard reporting less than an inch of rain, less than 50% of normal precipitation. Within eastern Massachusetts, rainfall totals ranked within the top 15 driest Julys on record, with Boston and the Blue Hills experiencing the fourth driest.

Slightly higher rainfall totals, however, occurred across much of central and western Massachusetts and on Nantucket, ranging from 50%-100% of normal. Totals ranged mostly between 2 and 4 inches, while some locations in the Springfield area and southern Berkshire County experienced higher totals of 4-5 inches.

The Drought Management Task Force is scheduled to meet again Aug. 23 at 10 a.m. For more information on water conservation and what residents can do, visit EEA’s drought page and water conservation page.

Aug. 9, 2022

Aquidneck Island Transit to Go Electric

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority is being awarded a $22.4 million federal grant to buy 25 new electric buses and recharging infrastructure, according to the state’s congressional delegation. The funding will allow all Aquidneck Island-based transit services to go electric.

The grant is made available through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program.

Aug. 3, 2022

Longtime Conservationist’s Work Honored with Merritt Award

Paul Roselli, president of the Burrillville Land Trust and the longest-tenured board member of the Rhode Island Land Trust Council, was honored last month at the 19th annual Rhode Island Land and Water Conservation Summit for his longtime advocacy of environmental issues and land conservation.

During the three-day summit at the University of Rhode Island, Roselli was awarded with the Peter Merritt Conservation Award, given in honor of the late Peter Merritt, a founding member and second president of the Aquidneck Land Trust.

“Its a great honor and one that I readily share with everyone who fights for land protection,” said Roselli, a Burrillville resident. “It takes a village to save our sense of place.”

July 30, 2022

DOH and DEM Recommend Avoiding Contact with Parts of Johnson’s Pond

The Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management are advising people to avoid contact with the Bridge Area of Island Drive of Johnson’s Pond in Coventry because of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms.

Bloom conditions can change quickly, and other areas of the pond, also called the Flat River Reservoir, may be affected, so users in other areas should exercise caution, according to state officials.

Blue-green algae can produce toxins that can harm humans and animals, and toxins were present in recent samples at both sites. Toxins may persist in the water after the blue-green algae bloom is no longer visible.

People should be careful not to ingest water or eat fish from the ponds, according to state officials. All recreation, including fishing, boating, and kayaking, should be avoided. Animals who may ingest pond water are especially at risk from exposure to the algal toxins, so owners should not allow pets to drink or swim in the water. The advisory will remain in effect until further notice.

Contact with water containing blue-green algae commonly causes irritation of the skin, nose, eyes, and/or throat. Common health effects associated with ingesting water containing algal toxins include stomachache, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. Rarer health effects include dizziness, headache, fever, liver damage, and nervous system damage. Young children and pets are at a particular risk for health effects associated with algal toxins.

If you come into contact with the water, rinse your skin with clean water as soon as possible and, when you get home, take a shower and wash your clothes. Similarly, if your pet comes into contact with the water, immediately wash your pet with clean water. Do not let the animal lick its fur.

DEM encourages people to send reports of suspected blue-green algae blooms, along with photographs if possible, to

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