Letter: Little Compton’s affordable housing dilemma

Posted 6/15/22

To the editor:

Limited natural resources and not snob zoning restrict the building of affordable housing in Little Compton. A Research Report by Statewide Planning in 1986 dictated at a minimum, …

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Letter: Little Compton’s affordable housing dilemma

Posted

To the editor:

Limited natural resources and not snob zoning restrict the building of affordable housing in Little Compton. A Research Report by Statewide Planning in 1986 dictated at a minimum, two acres or greater depending on soil quality as the required area needed to treat residential properties with both wells and septic systems in order to prevent contamination of the property’s own drinking water.

Little Compton’s natural soils are coarse inorganic glacial till with little humus or organic matter to hold and support bacterial growth that would digest wastes from septic systems. The soils are shallow and cover barely permeable bedrock, which restricts percolation of rainwater and septic wastes. The bedrock of the entire peninsula of Little Compton contains several toxic heavy metals; arsenic, cadmium, copper, mercury and nickel. All of which threaten the quality of well water with the water source being low pH acid rain, which keeps these metals in solution in drinking water and can sicken and kill those who drink it without expensive pretreatment.

The only reservoir in town is owned by Newport but is currently not used due to the severe agricultural chemical contamination of its water and the expense of treatment. The phosphates in Watson Reservoir also support the annual growth of toxic cyanobacteria, which can sicken and kill animals and humans. There appear to be no other water bodies or aquifers in town that could support a public water system to serve a large development of affordable housing.

Further complicating development of affordable housing is that Little Compton is surrounded by the highest graded Type 1 and 2 Public Resource Waters, which prohibit sewage discharges. Only a “Compelling Public Purpose” like a power plant or hospital is likely to break this restriction.

The only solution to this might be to apply for a grant to build a small tertiary sewage treatment plant with ground discharge, but then shallow soils and impermeable bedrock might block that. So the dilemma continues.

Mimi Karlsson

Little Compton

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.