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A Hummel Report Investigation

Paying the Piper

Customers of the Narragansett Bay Commission - a third of the entire state of Rhode Island - have seen their sewer bills triple since 2001, largely to fund a half a billion dollar project aimed at satisfying federal mandates to improve the water quality of Narragansett Bay. But with more rate increases on the horizon the agency is asking the question: How clean is clean enough?

Click here for a breakdown of the rate increases since 2001 and click here for the Narragansett Bay Commission's budget for 2015.

Click here to watch our 2011 report on the Narragansett Bay Commission.

SCRIPT

This massive mill building in the heart of Central Falls has undergone a transformation over the past decade -  a big space once used to manufacture argyle socks and ace bandages is now home to dozens of smaller businesses.
Adams: ``There are probably about 55-60 small tenants here now. Most of them are art studios and wood working shops and screen printers and things like that.’’
Like any landlord, owner Jerauld Adams has to keep a close eye on overhead expenses while keeping his tenants happy. Electricity has been typically expensive, but it’s the sewer bill from the Narragansett Bay Commission that has caught Adams attention over the past few years.
Adams: ``I started calculating, because I could see it just by paying my bills, month to month, they seemed like they were going up before. Now they’re asking for even more money.’’
When Adams began crunching the numbers he found double-digit increases in some years.
Adams: ``I could see a 2 percent or 3 percent cost of living increase every year, to be fair, but when you jump up to 9 or 10 percent each year it’s just getting out of hand.’’
Adams is one of 80,000 customers in eight communities surrounding Providence served by the bay commission. That’s close to 360,000 people, more than a third of the entire state.
The Hummel Report found that since 2001 rates have more than tripled - primarily because of a three-phase underground combined sewer overflow project that has already cost half a billion dollars. That and upgrades to two treatment plants are required by the federal government through the Clean Water Act.
It’s a mandate without funding from the feds.

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