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Providence Water in negotiations to acquire the Johnston Water District



It is unknown how the potential acquisition might impact the water deal between the Town of Johnston and Invenergy, the company seeking to build a power plant in Burrillville

Ricky Caruolo, General Manager of Providence Water, met with Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena and Polisena’s Chief of Staff Doug Jeffrey on February 13 to discus the possibility of Providence Water acquiring the Johnston Water District. Caruolo reported this the the Providence Water Supply Board at their February meeting Wednesday evening.

“This is not the first time where there have been formal negotiations between Providence Water and the Johnston Water District,” said Caruolo. “They are right now a wholesale account to us.”

The Johnston Water District has around 1,800 retail accounts.

“I don’t see any major issues right now with the Johnston Water District,” said Caruolo. “We’re in the early stages and we’ll see where that goes.”

One interesting twist to this possible acquisition is that the Town of Johnston has entered into an agreement with Benn Water, a company that will be providing water to Invenergy to cool the turbines of their proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant aimed at the fragile forests of Burrillville.

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In a complicated and controversial deal, Johnston agreed to sell water it acquires from Providence Water to Invenergy (by way of Benn Water Trucks) for a mark up. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and the Providence City Council oppose Invenergy’s proposed power plant. Providence is unable to profit from the sale of its water, by state law.

The deal between Johnston and Invenergy right now awaits a decision from the Rhode Island Superior Court as to its legality. Invenergy’s power plant is currently being debated in hearings before the Energy Facilities Siting Board. Providence is engaging in a process to “monetize” its water system. The potential acquisition of the Johnston Water District by Providence Water is yet another wrinkle.

The Providence Water Supply Board meeting was the first of 2019 and the first attended by new members from the Providence City Council, Joann Ryan  (Ward 5) and Luis Aponte (Ward 10).

Here’s the full meeting of the Providence Water Supply Board:

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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 nearly a decade.