Consultants propose innovative remedy to stormwater problem

NEWPORT — Consultant engineers recommended to city officials Wednesday night they undertake a public works project that would be the first of its kind in the nation.

“On a public works project, you don’t necessarily want to be the first,” said Dean Audet, vice president of Fuss & O’Neill of Providence.

But, he said, the firm’s proposed “subsurface storage system” under city roads is the best solution he and the firm’s engineers could come up with to address flooding and drainage problems in an area that drains into the Easton’s Pond moat.

Audet was addressing about two dozen residents from the congested, heavily populated area south of Bliss Road, mainly between Whitwell and Eustis avenues.

Also present at the informational meeting in the council chamber of City Hall were Mayor Harry Winthrop, City Council members Lynn Underwood Ceglie and Jamie Bova, City Manager Joseph Nicholson Jr. and other top city officials.

Director of Utilities Julia Forgue and Deputy Director of Utilities for Engineering Robert Schultz Jr. were present as well, but they have been working with the Fuss & O’Neill engineers on the drainage and flooding study and analysis since the summer.

Water forms ponds in the yards of homeowners or flows through the yards as it rushes during storms toward the moat that surrounds Easton’s Pond. The stormwater pipes fill to capacity and the water finds its own way through the approximately 40-acre neighborhood north of the pond.

To alleviate flooding and drainage problems in this area, the engineers proposed the city construct chambers that extend from just below the pavement of the roads to just above the existing storm drains. The chambers would have a new half-pipe running through the middle of them to hold water.

The chamber would be filled with crushed stone and enclosed with a permeable geotextile fabric that would allow water to flow through it in both directions, but also would keep soil from getting into the stone. The stored water would slowly seep into the ground or be drained out through 6-inch pipes at the bottom corners of the chambers instead of causing flooding.

“This is a very innovative design, so there are no design criteria,” Audet said. “The design needs to be very carefully developed.”

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