WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an effort to ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to clean, reliable drinking water, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Seth Magaziner today announced a $286,000 federal grant to improve access to and resilience of drinking water for residents of Block Island.
This federal grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office of Rural Development through the Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants program. These funds will be used to help finance a drinking water and well improvement project for the town of New Shoreham to replace an aging source water well. This project will enable the town to maintain drinking water quality while expanding access for residents.
“This is good news for Block Island. Clean water is critical to public health and is essential for the health of our economy and environment. I am pleased to help deliver this funding to ensure that Block Island has reliable access to safe drinking water,” said Senator Reed. “This is a needed investment in expanding drinking water access that will ensure the system can meet the community’s needs for years to come.”
“I’m pleased to have helped secure major federal investments to meet the needs of Block Island residents and visitors, from expanding capacity for delivering high-quality health care to improving key infrastructure to boost the Island’s economy,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This new funding will upgrade drinking water infrastructure and improve the aging well water systems that many Island residents rely on.”
“Every Rhode Islander deserves safe, clean, and reliable drinking water,” said Rep. Seth Magaziner. “This federal funding will help ensure that Block Island residents and visitors will have access to high quality drinking water for years to come.”
“Operating, maintaining, and financing the infrastructure for the stand alone public water supply on Block Island is challenging. This grant supplied financing for the replacement of a failing source water well. The replacement well will provide reliable source water to our island community for many years. Thanks for the support from our Rhode Island congressional delegation for prioritizing aging water infrastructure and making this project possible,” said John Breunig, superintendent of the Block Island Water Company.
As an island ecosystem, Block Island relies on rainfall to replenish supply of freshwater. It is estimated that the Block Island Water Company, which serves the commercial districts in Old Harbor and New Harbor, provides almost half of the island’s water demand between the months of July and August, when tourism peaks. As well systems age and demand for drinking water increases with new developments, action is required to strengthen the island’s supply.
The USDA Rural Development’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants program helps eligible communities prepare, or recover from, an emergency that threatens the availability of safe, reliable drinking water. Grants are also awarded through this program when a significant decline in quality or quantity of water is imminent.
In June, Reed and Whitehouse delivered a $2 million federal earmark for the Block Island Medical Center (BIMC) to expand health services for the town. BIMC has served as the island’s sole primary care facility for residents and visitors since 1989. The federal funds secured by Reed and Whitehouse will support BIMC’s $10 million expansion project that is expected to begin construction in early fall 2023 and will ensure the facility can serve Block Island’s needs now and in the future.
Chip Unruh (Reed), (202) 224-4642
Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (202) 224-2921
James Kwon (Magaziner), (202) 951-0315