Swansea obtains $28,000 ‘vulnerability’ grant to protect water infrastructure

SWANSEA – The town received a boost in its continued efforts to protect its natural resources under challenging and changing conditions, including floods, drought and extreme storms.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation recently issued a $28,495 Municipal Vulnerability Grant. The funds will enable Swansea to conduct a “climate change vulnerability assessment” to protect its water structures and system.

The grant application issued this spring said the assessment will be of its desalination treatment facility’s raw water intake infrastructure and the primary access road to the infrastructure. That is Old Providence Road across the Bungtown Bridge crossing the Palmer River known as the Palmer River causeway.

An assessment study from the grant funds will develop a future resiliency plan, said Conservation Agent Colleen Brown who worked with consultants and a public safety group on the application.

Such a future plan would “protect the public water supply from sea level rise and extreme storms,” says the write-up for the grant that Brown said DCR awarded two weeks ago.

The town has consulted with the Providence engineering firm Fuss & O’Neill Inc., which will perform the year-long study, Brown said.

She said recommendations that could come out of the assessment include raising the road that often floods, while recommending methods to mitigate pollution to the valuable desalination plant a short distance from the bridge.

Referencing the $20 million desalination plant built in 2010, which handles 2.2 million gallons of drinking water daily, officials wrote, “Swansea was forward-thinking when it decided to construct its desalination facility to provide the public with reliable, redundant water supply infrastructure. However, this asset is vulnerable to climate change.”

(The mix of salt, brackish water is drawn from the nearby river via the innovative plant process.)

The primary objective of the assessment grant project “is to identify specific risks to enable the town to implement resiliency measures that addresses infrastructure vulnerabilities.”

It’s also the first step toward implementing “integrated climate resiliency plans.”

Looking ahead, future plans would assess drought conditions on the desalination facility’s operations and the public water supply wells. Those are vulnerable to drought and power outages, the town reported.

Those protections would be done in conjunction with the state Department of Environmental Protection and establishing stricter standards, Brown said.

Email Michael Holtzman at mholtzman@heraldnews.com or call him at 508-676-2573.

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