The city of Newport, R.I., is installing upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant that will make it a “jewel,” according to those close to the project. The upgrades are designed both to produce cleaner wastewater and to increase capacity, so that the plant can accommodate stormwater flows that currently spill into Newport Harbor as combined sewer overflows (“CSOs”).

NELC attorneys filed suit against the city in 2008, alleging that inadequate wastewater treatment and stormwater control were causing ongoing violations of the Clean Water Act. The resultant pollution often closed beaches and created unsafe conditions in the harbor. Under a revised consent decree in the case, signed by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith in 2016, the city must complete almost $100 million in improvements to the municipal system by 2033. improvements to the wastewater treatment plant are to be completed in 2019.

The treatment plant’s capacity is being increased from 19.7 million gallons per day to 30 million gallons per day, which will allow storm surges to be treated rather than discharged as CSOs. The effluent treatment system is also being overhauled, with a switch from a chlorine solution for killing bacteria to a more environmentally- friendly ultraviolet treatment system.

Another innovative upgrade will be the installation of 790 solar panels, financed in part by a ‘green grant’ from the state’s Clean Water revolving Fund. These panels will provide 328,000 kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable electricity each year. The plant is the first in rhode island to use solar photovoltaic power.