Bristol, Rhode Island Battles Sewage Backflows with Rising Seas

Project Summary

​Bristol is a low-lying community in Rhode Island facing flooding issues and sewage backflow.

Project Background

​Bristol, Rhode Island, sits on the northern part of Narragansett Bay, with Narragansett Bay to its west and the Mount Hope Bay to its east. The town occupies approximately 10 square miles of actual land. Known for its boating and historic Fourth of July Parade, the ocean is a daily part of the residents in Bristol’s life. The average elevation in Bristol is 89 feet above sea level, and lower lying areas endure repeated flooding with storms and heavy rains
In March 2010, Rhode Island experienced some of its worst flooding in years, with heavy rains that caused overflowing rivers and flooding in towns across the state. Bristol experienced a lot of this flooding, and many properties reported documented incidents of sewage backup into buildings.

Project Implementation

​In November 2011, Bristol was awarded a grant through completion of its FEMA application process for a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The grant award totaled $145,913 to develop a prevention system to mitigate sewage backflow, and it is the first of its kind in Rhode Island. The town submitted its application before the deadline of March 2011 by developing a Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2009, and revised it in 2010 for FEMA review. The town’s plan focuses on helping property owners affected by the backflow to retrofit the existing sewage connections to prevent this problem in the future.1 The town has identified 53 properties that incur this back up after excessive rains, 37 of which reported problems after the March 2010 floods.

Project Outcomes and Conclusions

​This project was just approved in late 2011. The project is currently in the beginning stages of planning.