194807 Protecting the drinking water supply of Conanicut Island, RI - Community advocacy at its best

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Patrick O. Bohan, MSEH, MS, PhD , Department of Environmental Health Science, East Central University, Ada, OK
Donna P. O'Neill, RDH, BS, BFA , Conanicut Concerned Citizens, Jamestown, RI
Ellen M. Winsor, BA , Conanicut Concerned Citizens, Jamestown, RI
This is a case study of how a group of concerned citizens residing on Conanicut Island, RI successfully organized and advocated for the safety and adequacy of their drinking water supply in response to a series of planning and development proposals introduced by town policymakers. The Conanicut Concerned Citizens (CCC) believed that their local policymakers were planning to make decisions that would threaten their drinking water including the remediation of the former town dump and the use and cumulative impact of residential septic systems on the water supply. Additional threats to the drinking water supply included a twenty percent population increase during the summer months, periodic droughts, salt water intrusion, lack of available emergency water sources and long term off-island water supply, and the unique geological formations of the aquifer. Having safe and adequate drinking water continues to be an important public health challenge in the 21st century. This is particularly true for island communities in certain parts of the United States. Responsibility for assuring a safe and adequate drinking water supply is often defaulted to elected officials and public administrators. The importance of community members taking responsibility for the future of their own drinking water cannot be overstated. The CCC, facing political resistance, was able to obtain EPA sole source aquifer designation, a key component toward protecting their drinking water from contamination. How the CCC successfully organized and addressed their concerns through the political and administrative processes can serve as an example for others to follow.

Learning Objectives:
1. Articulate the process for obtaining the federal EPA designation of sole source aquifer. 2. Explain the importance of why elected officials should include community representation in decisions affecting their drinking water. 3. Discuss how concerned citizens can engage the political process to protect their limited supply of drinking water.

Keywords: Drinking Water Quality, Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an associate professor of environmental health science and have taught on issues dealing with advocacy and drinking water quality and quantity.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.