About the Warwick Sewer Authority

The Warwick Sewer Authority was created in 1962 by Rhode Island Public Law 1962, Chapter 254. Section 2—Sewers and Sewerage—of the Warwick Code of Ordinances incorporates the state enabling legislation for the Warwick Sewer Authority.

In the early 1960s when the City of Warwick (the City) began its planning for a wastewater collection and treatment system, it was the fourth largest City in the state with a population 68,504, Today, the City of Warwick is Rhode Island’s second largest city with a population in the year 2000 of 85,808.

In 1965, the treatment facility and a small core of a sewerage system was completed and brought on-line. The 4.5 million gallon per day secondary treatment facility was located on the banks of the Pawtuxet River on what would later become the western side of Interstate 95. The treatment facility was state of the art in 1965—an activated sludge secondary treatment facility designed to reduce suspended solids and organic loading to the then heavily-polluted Pawtuxet River.

In 1979, the Warwick Sewer Authority completed a comprehensive sewer facilities plan. This plane established the basic guide for the WSA sewering program over the next 10 years.

In 1989, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) determined that the three communities for Warwick, West Warwick, and Cranston, all of which have wastewater treatment facilities that discharge treated sanitary wastes into the Pawtuxet River, to be in violation of their new Rhode Island Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (RIPDES) Permits. These new permits set strict limits on the discharge of metal, nitrogen, phosphorus and other materials that were not attainable with the existing secondary treatment facilities in each of these communities, In 1990, the RIDEM entered into “consent agreements” with each community, directing them to develop a plan and a program to achieve the allowable limits of discharges.

As a result, the Warwick Sewer Authority retained an engineer to prepare a plan and a program in accordance with the RIDEM order. This Facilities Plan updated the 1979 plan and addressed the following:

  • Estimate future flows to the treatment facility
  • Identify inflow and infiltration into the City’s sewer system
  • Analyze non-point pollution sources to the Pawtuxet River
  • Evaluate advanced (tertiary) treatment to remove phosphorus and nitrogen
  • Evaluate effluent disinfection alternatives
  • Evaluate alternative methods of treatment and disposal
  • Evaluate regional options for tertiary treatment and for outfall locations
  • Evaluate sludge management options

The plan was completed in 1992 and further amended in 1996 and in 2004 to incorporate new issues and projects that were identified. The plan defines the projects that continue to be developed to this day and for the foreseeable future.

In 1992 the RIDEM temporarily closed Greenwich Bay to shellfishing due to high levels of fecal coliform. Realizing the importance of environmental protection and the benefits associated with the use and enjoyment of this coastal resource, including shellfishing, the City drafted a “Greenwich Bay Reclamation Plan.” Portions of this plan identified critical sewering needs of the city in order to address environmental issues in Greenwich Bay.

After several smaller bond issues had been passed in previous years to support the sewer program and plans, in 1994, the City of Warwick voters approved the authorization of a $130 million general obligation bond to finance the mandated upgrades at the wastewater treatment facility and to expand the sewer system to virtually all areas of Warwick except those areas excluded by the Facilities Plan (the lower end of Warwick Neck, Cowesett and the non-contiguous portion of Warwick, Potowomut.)

In March, 2002, the Warwick Sewer Authority issued a notice to proceed to its contractor to begin construction on a $35 million dollar upgrade to its 40 year old wastewater treatment facility. Construction on this advanced wastewater treatment facility was completed in September, 2004—the first facility on the Pawtuxet River to complete its construction to meet the new mandate discharge limits for nitrogen and phosphorus.

On November 1, 2004, the new RIPDES permit limits became effective for the new wastewater treatment facility.

In 2004, the City of Warwick and the WSA continued their commitment to reduce water quality impacts on Greenwich and Narragansett Bays with the approval by the City Council of and ordinance authorizing the WSA to issue up to $50 million in revenue bonds to continue its capital plan. The WSA similarly approved a resolution supporting this revenue bond issuance as well. In 2005, Senator Jack Reed procured a $250,000 grant for the City of Warwick to perform a feasibility study on the sewering of Potowomut. This study is presently under way.