Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 04-01-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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12 NORTH SMITHFIELD APRIL 1-7, 2021 | VALLEY BREEZE | NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION Mongeon blames Dowling Village for the worst of the problems, but a time- line provided to the town Planning Department recently indicates they started before construction began on the shopping complex in 2010. In 2007, the previous owners of the house, Edna and Conrad Laflamme, submitted a complaint to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation about contaminated well water. At the time, according to the timeline, the RIDOT explored the possibility of con- necting the property to a public water source, but didn't pursue it. Later that year, the RIDOT began delivering bottled water to the property after test results confirmed high sodium and chloride levels in the well. A water filtration company inspected the well and recommended improvements, but the issues continued. Mongeon said he purchased the property in 2010 with plans to rent it out to tenants, but the problems con- tinued under his ownership. In 2013, he tried to sell it, but the new owners eventually signed it back over to him in 2018 after they also experienced flooding and well water contamination. During that time, the RIDOT explored several possible solutions to the water issues, including digging a new well whose sodium levels also tested too high for drinking. In the past two years, Mongeon said the problems have gotten so bad he's unable to rent the property out to ten- ants. "I've been paying taxes on it now for two years without anybody in there. It's become a real pain in the neck," he said. Though he acknowledged the well issues existed beforehand, Mongeon said he's seen a significant change in the property's water table since the development of Dowling Village. The home sits directly across the street from Old Louisquisset Pike, where a drain- age area catches runoff from the east- ern side of Eddie Dowling Highway. A culvert carries the water under the highway, where it overflows into a swamp abutting Mongeon's yard. "You can see the water actually bubble up out of the basin where it is sometimes as much as a foot in the air," he said. For the moment, the wetland vegeta- tion appears to be mostly constrained to his property, but Mongeon said he thinks it's only a matter of time before the issue spreads to neighboring homes. "If they were to raze that house and create a bigger holding area for the wetland area down below where the swamp is, it would keep the vegetation from taking over the properties going up the road," he said. "If they don't do that, then this vegetation is just going to encroach on everybody else's property up the way." Construction of the 550,000-square- foot shopping complex began in 2010 and continued for almost a decade. In 2019, developer Brian Bucci approached the town with plans to build a 21-unit condo complex, an addition he said would be the "final piece" of the development. If approved, the condos would be located on Old Louisquisset Pike, close to the drainage basin across from Mongeon's property. John Mancini, an attorney for the project, did not respond to requests for comment from The Valley Breeze this week. A spokesperson for the RIDOT, in a statement to The Breeze, said it hasn't been determined how much of the increased salt in Mongeon's well is related to stormwater from public ver- sus private sources. Charles St. Martin, chief public affairs officer, acknowl- edged the agency's involvement with the property over the years but said stormwater from private development is not under the RIDOT's purview. "RIDOT is very responsive to these situations whenever they are brought to our attention, and as you can see from the timeline, RIDOT has taken sev- eral steps to assist the property owners for several years, including providing bottled drinking water," he said. Last fall, frustrated with the unsolved problem, Mongeon reached out to local legislators. At the request of state Sen. Roger Picard, John Baxter Jr., the direc- tor of the Senate Office of Constituent Services, began investigating and met with representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Baxter told The Breeze he also thinks the problem is the result of poor stormwater management at the Dowling Village complex. "These are the consequences when you have major development and you create so much impervious surface. Stormwater has to go somewhere," he said. Baxter recommended Mongeon apply to Building Resilient Infrastructures and Communities, a fed- eral program that offers funds to reduce the risk of flooding and other hazards in local communities. Under the program, which would require Town Council approval, Mongeon could receive compensation for his unusable property. FLOODING From Page One BREEZE PHOTO BY LAUREN CLEM MICHAEL MONGEON stands in the backyard of his property at 199 Eddie Dowling Highway, where a swampy wetland has left him with few options for using the house. See WATER, Page 14 Rachel A. Baboian, Au. D. Doctor of Audiology Licensed Audiologist 6 Blackstone Valley Place, Building 3, Suite 307, Lincoln, RI www.hearforyouri.com • 401-475-6116 Call today to schedule your appointment AND... Ask about our Interest Free Financing! I think you need a hearing test! Why do I need a hairy chest? At Hear For You Hearing and Balance Center we strive for excellence in customer care. 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