Coventry Representative Jared R. Nunes (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick) is calling for all parties involved in the release of Sunday’s boil-water advisory to develop a faster, more pragmatic system after thousands of residents, business and public officials were left in the dark about a potential E. Coli contamination for an extended period of time.
Representative Nunes wrote a letter to members of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Kent County Water Authority (KCWA) today to express his deep concerns about the process by which roughly 25,000 utilities customers were notified of the potential harm in the water supply. He said he wanted to make sure it was clear to everyone that delaying a boil-water order even for a few hours on a Sunday when a sample was suspected to be contaminated on Friday could mean the difference between a healthy child and a severely ill one.
“The general manager stated to numerous media outlets that he was well within the 24-hour notification required by law,” Representative Nunes wrote. “However, in absence of a state law requiring notification, common sense must prevail. It is the duty of a public utility to quickly notify its residents of a potential health hazard.”
He further asserted that “there needs to be a proactive approach in dealing with such situations. If KCWA is unable to put procedures in place to notify the public in a timely manner, then perhaps the PUC, in conjunction with the RIEMA, should mandate notification upon receipt of the first failed test.”
Representative Nunes pushed for legislation (2013-H 5399) this year to increase the number of members on the KCWA Board of Directors, which would give much-needed representation to communities currently outside of the water authority’s rule-making process. He reiterated in his letter that it could be time to consider increasing the size of the board to assist with implementing new regulations to “benefit all affected areas” and increase the accountability of the KCWA.