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Fall River commits to not renewing water contract with Invenergy



“We can take a vote, but I can tell you the board is not in favor of renewing that contract once it runs out, at this time” said Watuppa Water Board Chair Robert Pearson. “Unless this board changes drastically.”

Pearson was addressing the small crowd gathered during the public comment period of Fall River’s Watuppa Water Board September 19 meeting. The board is responsible for policy and oversight of the Fall River Department of Community Utilities, Water Division.

At issue is a contract to sell water to Benn Water, a Rhode Island based company that has a deal with Invenergy to truck water from Fall River, Massachusetts to Burrillville, Rhode Island, to cool the turbines of a proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island.

The contract was made with the City of Fall River and hidden from public view long enough to ensure that Fall River resident Erica Scott could not file an open meetings act complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General in a timely fashion.

Scott was present at the meeting to read the Attorney General’s response to her complaint the board, as can be sen in the video below. In the letter, the Attorney General acknowledges that the Watuppa Water Board did not adequately describe the nature of the meeting at which the water contract with Invenergy was approved, among other issues.

Can we please ask a favor?

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Chair Pearson did not address Scott’s letter directly, but did talk about the future of Invenergy’s relationship with Fall River, saying:

“We’ve discussed this in the past, as you well know, and I think my bottom line that time was that we would not be in favor of entering into another contract. However, we are in the business of selling water, and to the best off my knowledge, I don’t think we’ve sold one tank load as of yet…

“So as you can see, we’re making money off of it, which is part of our function, as without incoming money we can’t replace water mains and all those various chores that we have to do.

“I told you [Scott] that we are steadfastly behind you in your efforts. However, a contract is in place, and they are not taking any water from us as of now. If they were, it is my belief that the only water they would use probably dampens the dusty roads going in and out of that plant. They haven’t even got a plant yet, so if they want to keep paying us by the year we’ll let that contract run out at that rate.

“This board is not inclined to enhance that agreement once that agreement runs out. We can take a vote, but I can tell you the board is not in favor of renewing that contract once it runs out, at this time. Unless this board changes drastically.”

The next public speaker, Erik Andrade, made the case that the water, initially stolen from the local Wampanoag Indian Tribe, was to serve the people of the area, not for sale to fracked gas power plants. At the beginning of Andrade’s testimony Chair Pearson ordered him to remove his hat, which Pearson refused to do, noting that there was no law against wearing a hat in a public meeting.

Two other speakers, Hartman Deetz and Robert Pittsley, also addressed the board.

Watuppa Water Board members Robert Pearson and Robert Pinnell were in attendance. Water Board Vice Chair Christopher Ferreira was absent.

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.