Above: The West Warwick Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility saw unprecedented flooding in 2010, as the Pawtuxet River crested at more than two times its flood stage. Now, industry professionals are looking at ways to address the impacts of climate change with infrastructure upgrades.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) oversees and regulates 19 major wastewater treatment facilities in Rhode Island. A prominent RI-CHAMP partner and steering committee member since the beginning, in 2022 RI DEM requested a customized planning tool specifically tailored to the needs of the Wastewater Treatment (WWTF) critical infrastructure sector.
Working with RI DEM we developed a RIDEM-CHAMP system for coastal storm hazard mitigation planning and training. The system integrates the hazard consequence asset data from 13 of 19 Rhode Island wastewater treatment facilities with three ADCIRC(ADvanced Circulation) storm models simulating low, intermediate, and high impact coastal storm events. Piloted at a workshop in January 2023, the RI DEM CHAMP system heightens awareness of coastal flood impacts for wastewater facility managers.
Figure: An image of the WWTF dashboard analyzing the impacts from Superstorm Sandy.
RI DEM intends to use the tool to help build knowledge and resiliency across Rhode Island's wastewater treatment infrastructure. Annual consequence asset data reviews and incorporating RI DEM CHAMP in existing training and planning programs will help achieve this goal. Additionally, as a component of the more extensive RI-CHAMP system, RI DEM has access to the near-real-time capabilities of the tool used by state emergency managers to anticipate and prepare for the impacts of present-day storm events approaching the area.
"In 2022, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act and the profound successes that that law made possible—especially the building of increasingly advanced wastewater collection and treatment systems in Rhode Island. Looking forward, resiliency will now become a growing focus of protecting these investments. This will include cybersecurity and protection from supply-chain issues, and, of course, responding to the growing threat of storm-related damage. In this last area, URI's Storm Impact Modeling Program will help build resiliency by helping wastewater managers minimize the effects of approaching storms. URI and the team assembling this system are to be commended for envisioning this program and their continued work in making it a reality." - Bill Patenaude, Principal Engineer, RIDEM