March 4, 2016

Tanzi introduces bill to raise tobacco purchase age to 21, save lives

STATE HOUSE – Saying the state must do more to address smoking as the serious threat to public health that it is, Rep. Teresa Tanzi has introduced legislation to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in Rhode Island from 18 to 21.

The legislation ( 2016-H 7737) would apply to all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, and would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

If passed, Rhode Island would become the second state to adopt 21 as the minimum age for tobacco purchases, after Hawaii, which enacted the change last year. Boston, New York City and 120 other municipalities across the country, including 80 in Massachusetts alone, have adopted local ordinances raising their tobacco purchase age to 21.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence, and therefore preventing tobacco use among youth is critical to ending the tobacco epidemic in the United States, which is responsible for the deaths of 480,000 Americans annually. In Rhode Island, 1,800 adults die each year from their own smoking, and the state’s annual health care costs due to smoking are $639,604,224.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 80 percent of all adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18; and approximately 95 percent of all adult smokers began smoking before age 21.

Last year, a report by the Institute of Medicine for the Food and Drug Administration estimated that raising the age of tobacco purchase to 21 nationwide would result in a 25-percent reduction in youth smoking initiation, a 12-percent reduction in smoking rates overall, and 16,000 fewer preterm or low birth weight births in the first five years of the policy. The report estimated that such a policy throughout the United States would prevent 4.2 million years of life lost to smoking in children alive today. In another study, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that 75 percent of adults favor raising the tobacco age to 21, including 70 percent of smokers and 65 percent of those age 18 to 24.

The bill’s sponsors point to success in reducing youth smoking in communities that adopt higher age restrictions, and the positive effect that less smoking would have on Rhode Islanders’ health as well as public and private health care costs.

“Data tells us that 9 out of 10 adult smokers began smoking before age 21. Reducing youth access to tobacco products will lower tobacco addiction and reduce tobacco-related death and disease. Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 will benefit the individual and society as a whole,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), who also introduced the legislation last year. “Reducing opportunity and likelihood for addiction has obvious health benefits for that individual, as well as financial benefits for him or her and the family they might have in the future. But it also has health and financial benefits for society at large. Less smoking means fewer of the related health problems that drive up health care costs for individuals, businesses that pay for employees’ insurance, and the public, which subsidizes health care for some. It means families aren’t spending money on tobacco, and can spend it on goods and services locally. And it would eliminate it from schools entirely, which cuts down on the pressures that lure many into the habit in the first place. It’s an important step toward a healthier Rhode Island.”

Changing the tobacco purchase age to 21 has the support of health advocates in Rhode Island and nationwide, including the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Rhode Island’s U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse last year cosponsored federal legislation to raise age to 21 nationwide.

“Raising the age of tobacco purchase from 18 to 21 will further lower smoking rates and prevent our children from becoming the next generation hooked on tobacco,” said Jeff Seyler, President and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “We applaud Rep. Teresa Tanzi and Senator Cynthia Coyne for introducing this common sense legislation which has the potential to save many lives. We hope Rhode Island legislators will act swiftly on this bill so that Rhode Island can become the next state with a Tobacco 21 law on the books.”

“By raising the tobacco sale age to 21, Rhode Island can set a great example for the nation that will save lives and health care dollars and help make the next generation tobacco-free,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, and ages 18 to 21 are critical years when young people transition from experimenting with tobacco to becoming regular users. By enacting this legislation, Rhode Island will reduce smoking and protect young people from this deadly addiction.”

For the first time in decades, in 2014 overall nicotine and tobacco use increased among U.S. high school students. This is almost entirely due to an explosion in teen use of e-cigarettes, hookahs and vaping. Current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students has tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Tobacco Products. This is the first time since the survey started collecting data on e-cigarettes in 2011 that current e-cigarette use has surpassed use of every other tobacco product, including conventional cigarettes. 

January 29, 2016

Rep. Tanzi named Legislator of the Year by Rhode Island Southern Firemen’s League

Rep. Tanzi with League President, Chief Frederick Stanley, Ret.
STATE HOUSE – The Rhode Island Southern Firemen’s League this week honored Rep. Teresa Tanzi as its 2015 Legislator of the Year.

The organization, which represents 18 volunteer fire districts, emergency medical technician departments and several volunteer fire associations in Washington County and parts of Kent County, selected Representative Tanzi for her steadfast advocacy on behalf of volunteer fire districts during the 2015 legislative session, when troubles with the Central Coventry Fire District led to legislation that would have affected all volunteer districts.

As a member of the House Finance Committee, where the bills were heard, she worked to defend volunteer fire districts, which she said provide excellent service and value to her district and towns all over the state.

“Volunteer fire districts provide essential, lifesaving services to citizens, saving our towns and our taxpayers a significant amount of money. These extraordinarily dedicated men and women have always been vital to our community, providing not only firefighting and emergency response services, but also serving as a way for neighbors to help neighbors and make the connections that make life in small towns special. I’m very grateful to the women and men of the Rhode Island Southern Firemen’s League for all they provide to our area,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

Representative Tanzi received the award Monday at the organization’s annual legislators’ night at the Richmond Country Club.

December 10, 2015

Obvious solutions to curbing gun violence face great resistance

  • Providence Journal Staff Writer
     PROVIDENCE, R.I. — In a search for "common-sense solutions we can get behind," Governor Raimondo assembled a two-hour discussion Wednesday about ways to reduce gun violence.
    Retired Superior Court Judge Francis J. Darigan Jr. facilitated the talk that had many points of view represented. About 25 people around the tables included other judges, public defenders, General Assembly members, a police chief, the state police, the Second Amendment Coalition, health advocates, elected officials, state department leaders and nonprofit organizations dedicated to nonviolence, domestic violence and Moms Demand Action.
    "When I became governor, I never thought I would spend so much time ordering our flags at half mast on account of gun tragedies in this country, and we just did it again," Raimondo said, referring to last week's San Bernardino, Calif., shootings. "We spend entirely too much time extending our good wishes, sympathies, thoughts and our prayers to victims, and not enough time getting around the table and saying, 'What can we do?'"
    Raimondo mentioned wanting to have such a discussion, and convening such a group, last October. 
    She continued, "What I know we can't do is nothing ... I am fully aware that the simplest, most obvious solutions will be met with great resistance, but we have to try."
    The first half of the meeting discussed the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, which screens people buying firearms. Rhode Island began sending names of people deemed mentally incompetent to the system this year. The group talked about ways to improve compliance and if it was possible to flag individuals who purchased large volumes of ammunition. 
    Deborah DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, also said there are some abusers listed on protective orders who aren't put in the system — and should be, in her opinion.
    The time was spent discussing a bill proposed, and not approved, last year by South Kingstown Rep. Teresa Tanzi and Barrington Sen. Cynthia Coyne that would have required people convicted of domestic violence crimes and subject to restraining orders (during the length of the order) to surrender their firearms.
    Research from Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that has lobbied for gun-control bills, found that judges rarely required domestic violence suspects to turn in their firearms even when the alleged victims said there are firearms present. Of the 1,609 protective orders granted from 2012 to 2014, Rhode Island judges ordered the suspects to surrender firearms in just 5 percent of the cases. 
    "It's a bill intended to protect victims from their convicted abuser," said Tanzi. "It's not about gun rights." 
    The majority in the room — in the audience and at the tables — agreed and said they would support similar bills this coming session. They called it "common sense."
    The only criticism seemed to come from Frank Saccocio, of the Second Amendment Coalition. He said Rhode Island is the safest state in the country when it comes to guns, and such legislation, if approved, could create more problems than help. 
    "Only 12 people were killed by firearms last year" in Rhode Island, Saccocio said, which caused members of the audience to snicker. 
    Countered Ana Novais, state associate director of health: "Even the small numbers are one too many."

November 24, 2015

Local reps deliver $7,500 to Jonnycake Center for turkeys

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi, Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee visited the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale this week to present a $7,500 legislative grant to support the center’s effort to provide food to those in need.

“Having enough to eat is one of the most urgent needs there is for any family. We joined forces to be able to make this a significant grant because we feel that providing food to those in need is one of the most important and worthy causes of all,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

Said Representative Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), “As the winter approaches and heating bills rise, many people are facing daunting challenges to keep food on the table with all the other expenses. We are grateful to the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale for addressing the very serious problem of hunger in our area.”

Added Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), “We live in one of the most prosperous nations on earth, and at Thanksgiving, every family should have a bountiful table. We are happy to have the opportunity to help the Jonnycake Center make that happen for needy families.”

The money will be used, in part, to purchase Thanksgiving turkeys for clients at the center, which provides comprehensive assistance to those in need of food, clothing and household items and advocacy for clients. When the three representatives visited the center earlier this week to deliver the grant, they also helped pack and distribute Thanksgiving packages to clients.

“We made a commitment to provide a turkey to every one of our clients this year. This generous grant goes a long way to help us honor that commitment,” said Kate Brewster, the center’s executive director.

The legislators reminded their constituents that the economic recovery is slowest for their poorest neighbors, and the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale needs their generosity over the holiday season. In particular, the need for breakfast and lunch items increases as schools are on holiday break and children are no longer able to get those meals at school. The Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale is located at 1231 Kingstown Road and can be reached at (401) 789-1559 or More information is available on the center’s website,

In photo, from left, Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale  Deputy Director/Development Office Lisa Wright, Rep. Teresa Tanzi and her daughter Delia Tanzi Buchbaum, Jonnycake Center Food Pantry Coordinator David Olguin, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty and Jonnycake Center Executive Director Kate Brewster.  

August 28, 2015

Benefit Corporations Taking Root in Rhode Island

STATE HOUSE – On the last day of the 2013 legislative session, the General Assembly enacted Rep. Teresa Tanzi’s bill allowing the establishment in Rhode Island of “benefit corporations,” companies that simultaneously pursue their commercial endeavors while also supporting social or environmental efforts.

Two years later, Rhode Island now has its first legally registered benefit corporations — or “B corps” — led by entrepreneurs who want their businesses to succeed not only in profitably making products, but also in helping the earth and the people on it.

Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) today hosted an event to draw attention to the first B corps in Rhode Island, their work for social and environmental advancement and the availability of this business designation to other entrepreneurs who wish to make a positive mark on the world.

“Rhode Island has this remarkably active and vibrant community of makers and innovators, and many in that community have wider ideals than personal advancement; they are focused on what their ideas can do for the world. I’m proud that we’ve been able to adapt Rhode Island’s laws to establish this middle ground between the corporate world and the nonprofit sector, because it gives people with great plans to use their innovations for the good of others the latitude they need to succeed. Their efforts can help our state and our economy as well as our communities, our environment and the world,” said Representative Tanzi, who added that she is interested in spreading the word that this designation exists so more corporations will consider it.

The event was held at Sachuest Beach in Middletown prior to a coastal cleanup hosted by Clean Ocean Access, an environmental initiative supported by Packaging 2.0, the first Rhode Island company to establish itself as a B corp under the new law.

 Packaging 2.0, headquartered in Providence, was founded in 2002 and primarily sells and markets thermoformed plastic packaging made from post-consumer recycled materials. The company seeks to bridge the worlds of plastics packaging design, manufacturing, reuse, recycling and sustainability, to raise levels of awareness about plastic packaging pollution and drastically increase recycling rates.

The company’s founder, Michael Brown, said he became aware of the idea of benefit corporations on a 2013 ocean expedition with the owners of Klean Kanteen, a certified benefit corporation that makes stainless steel reusable water bottles. He thought it sounded like the perfect way to meld his personal passion for the environment with the environmentally conscious bent that his company already had. He created a social mission arm for his company, Mission 2.Ocean, which supports a wide range of efforts and organizations on both the local and global levels that share its goals to reduce ocean plastic pollution. In addition to becoming the first B corp recognized under Rhode Island law, Packaging 2.0 also worked through a third-party certification organization to earn its separate designation as a “certified” B corp in 2014 as well.

 Through Mission 2.Ocean, his company supports Clean Ocean Access – which sponsors weekly beach cleanups around Newport, including the one after today’s event – and numerous other organizations connected to clean oceans, especially keeping plastic out of the ocean. Brown says he also pursues the company’s environmental mission by influencing his suppliers to make better environmental decisions, and by connecting the environmental activists he meets through his efforts to those in the industry, so they can better understand one another.

Brown said becoming a B corp not only better connected his company and his own environmental interests, but it also gave his company a designation that matters to the kind of environmentally conscious customers that seek his products. Among his customers is Whole Foods, which this year made Packaging 2.0 a preferred supplier, and will soon expand the use of its packaging from 100 Whole Foods stores to all Whole Foods locations.

“We offer an environmentally friendly product, so our customers are socially minded. They could buy their plastic packaging from anyone, but they value our socially conscious efforts. Being a benefit corporation helps us stand out in the pack and makes us more appealing to the customers who are in the market for our type of products,” said Brown.

At today’s event, in addition to presenting Clean Ocean Action with a $500 check, Brown presented a representative from Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea’s office with his company’s annual impact report, a requirement under the law establishing the B corp designation. The reportprovides a detailed analysis of the corporation’s impact on society and the environment over the course of its first year as a Rhode Island B corp.

The report lists the wide range of activities in which the company participated, from presentations at environmental solutions conferences to speaking with suppliers about taking a pledge to prevent spilling plastic pellets into the ocean to shoreline cleanups like today’s.

“The opportunity for benefit corporations and social enterprise to effect real, lasting social change while engaging in productive commercial activity and job creation is remarkable,” said Secretary of State Gorbea. “I can’t think of a better place to leverage this new sector than right here in Rhode Island, with our rich legacy of entrepreneurship and world-class creative talent. The Rhode Island Department of State is ready to help Rhode Island businesses succeed and prosper.”

The B corp designation is completely voluntary, and gives the directors of corporations more leeway to pursue socially responsible initiatives. While regular corporations can pursue activities that have a social or environmental benefit, such as making donations to community organizations, these actions must always be in the long-term interest of profit, or shareholders could seek the removal of corporate leaders or sue the company.

 Under the law establishing B corps, businesses need the support of two-thirds of all classes of their shareholders to convert into (or out of) benefit corporation status. Once a company becomes a benefit corporation, its leaders are accountable to those shareholders both for making a profit and for pursuing its mission through every aspect of their decision-making process. Examples of well-known benefit corporations include Vermont-based King Arthur Flour Company, an employee-owned company committed to environmental sustainability and volunteerism, and California’s Patagonia, Inc., a high-end outdoor clothing outfitter that funds environmental causes.

While only 12 other states recognized the designation when Rhode Island passed the law in 2013, B corp status is now available in 31 states. The designation does not cost the state anything, because it does not provide any tax breaks and has no effect on traditional corporations.

“Allowing benefit corporations to incorporate in Rhode Island encourages business growth and investment in Rhode Island, helps us attract socially conscious entrepreneurs to the state, provides high-quality jobs and provides businesses with the freedom they need to help solve problems in society,” said Representative Tanzi.

There are currently four benefit corporations that have registered with the Secretary of State’s office in Rhode Island, in various stages of incorporation.

Increment Studios, also located in Providence, is another company that has incorporated as a B corp since the law was established. Founded by Cynthia Poon and Maeve Jopson, both 2013 Rhode Island School of Design graduates, its goal is to make toys for children with special needs that promote the inclusion of all children. The two set out to address problems they see with toys designed for kids with motor or vision impairments: they often look like utilitarian devices rather than fun playthings, and they tend to be very expensive. They wanted to create toys that would be attractive not only to kids with special needs, but also to their siblings and friends to promote play among them. Jopson and Poon worked closely with Meeting Street School and Sensation Station, a therapy center, to develop Increment’s first product, the “O-Rings,” large stuffed rings of various colors, textures, filling and weights to help with tactile stimulation, gross motor skills, spatial awareness and all types of open-ended play. That product is expected to launch this fall.

Increment’s social mission is to furnish schools, therapy centers, children’s museums and other places with some of its products to help children with and without disabilities play together.

Poon and Jopson, who both participated in several entrepreneur and social enterprise programs before starting Increment, said they were unaware of the concept of benefit corporations when they started, but knew they wanted their company have a positive social impact in addition to being profitable.

“From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to be more than just a business that creates products for kids. We design our business and our products for social change, for a shift in perception of disabilities, and for the advocacy of inclusion through play. Being a benefit corporation provides a clear direction for our company as we aim to do well as a business and have a positive social impact for kids of all abilities. We hope that the benefit corporation status sets a standard for more and, eventually, all businesses to come,” said Poon.

August 6, 2015

Town officials continue to push for salt shed removal

Narragansett Town Councilors and a General Assembly representative continue to advocate for a new location and additional landscaping for the salt storage shed that abuts Route 1 and the Dillon Rotary.
Town Council President Pro-Tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno said she toured the site Monday with Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34) of Narragansett, Peace Dale and Wakefield, and state Department of Transportation officials. Cicilline Buonanno and Tanzi said a resolution was not secured. As a result, the Council voted 5-0 to issue a letter to DOT officials and Governor Raimondo. Buonanno and President Matthew Mannix requested the item be placed on Monday’s agenda.
Tanzi said she had asked DOT for a list of state-owned land between Charlestown and Wickford, which she considered a significant enough range to still provide salt to the area.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a place that has a 360-degree view. It just isn’t a necessary site,” Tanzi said of the shed’s location near the rotary. “They’re going to look into the costs of replacing that and get back to us.”
According to information shared by Narragansett Community Development Director Michael DeLuca at a July 20 Town Council meeting, and the letter approved by the council Monday, the town was not given a copy of the landscaping plan until days before construction began, despite consistent requests and a promise from then-DOT director Michael Lewis that the town would have input.
The letter is addressed to Raimondo, DOT director Peter Alviti, Tanzi, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33) of Narragansett and South Kingstown, and senators Mark Watkins Gee (R-Dist. 35) of East Greenwich, Narragansett, North Kingstown and South Kingstown, and James Sheehan (D-Dist. 36) of Narragansett and North Kingstown.
“In closing, I want to emphasize that we are overwhelmed at the unwillingness of the people involved in this project to accommodate local needs,” the letter reads. “We ask for your assistance to convince the RIDOT staff to expend whatever funds are necessary to save the trees, redesign the landscaping and work with National Grid to make accommodations that will serve our community.”
At issue are two large, older trees near the rear of the salt shed, which block some of the view from the Narragansett-South Kingstown town line. Tanzi said in her conversations with DOT and National Grid, she learned the trees would have to come down once the National Grid electrical substation that will service the Deepwater Wind transmission line went live.
“Susan and I pleaded with them today to at least leave the trees there as long as possible,” Tanzi said. “Honestly, even a dead tree is more visually appealing than that salt shed right now. It’s hard to put lipstick on it, but dead trees are preferable.”
Tanzi pledged to continue to call for compromise on landscaping and for the shed’s eventual relocation.

“I want to thank you for your advocacy on that project,” Cicilline Buonanno said. “I hope we’ll keep that pressure on until the very end, until it’s gone.”

August 3, 2015

Rep. Tanzi delivers $1,000 grant to VFW Auxiliary

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi recently secured a $1,000 legislative grant for the Washington County VFW’s Auxiliary Post 916.

The funding will be used to support the VFW Auxiliary’s effort to establish a network of community volunteers to educate children in South Kingstown schools about the United States’ veterans, fallen heroes and patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day, Flag Day and Veterans Day. Members of the VFW Auxiliary have already met with the school superintendent and hope to meet with principals on an ongoing basis to design educational programs, plan celebrations of patriotic holidays and provide opportunities for students to participate in programs like collections for troops, writing letters to soldiers and marching in parades.

“I’m proud to help support the work of the Washington County VFW’s Auxiliary Post 916 and their efforts to ensure that the next generation understands and values the contributions and sacrifices made by veterans and their families to keep us all safe and free. Many people talk about respecting and honoring veterans, but the members of the VFW Auxiliary truly put those words into action, and I’m grateful for the work they are doing to make sure veterans are appreciated and supported now and in the future,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

The Washington County VFW’s Auxiliary Post 916 is now accepting male, as well as female, members. Memberships are due by Dec. 31. The group meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. at 155 High St., Wakefield. Some of the other projects it is working on this year include Veterans Day and Memorial Day breakfasts, Valentines for Vets, collecting items for the Rhode Island Veterans’ Home and military troops, poppy sales, and Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy essays with local schools.

IN PHOTO: From left, VFW Auxiliary members Joyce Campbell, Margaret Whaley, Ella Whaley, Rep. Teresa Tanzi, Caroline Cox and Jennifer Ford

July 22, 2015

Governor signs law phasing out cesspools in Rhode Island

STATE HOUSE — Legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski and Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi that will eventually phase out cesspools in Rhode Island was signed today by Gov. Gina M. Raimondo at the Save the Bay Center. (H 5668 and S 369)

 “This legislation not only protects our environment, but gets Rhode Islanders in the building trades back to work updating and modernizing our wastewater treatment systems,” said Governor Raimondo. “By setting us on a path to remove cesspools from yards and other property across the state, we will be taking important steps towards improving the water quality of Narragansett Bay, our beaches, and our drinking water.”

Many Rhode Island homes have outdated underground wastewater systems. These systems, often cesspools, are inefficient and ineffective and contribute to public health and environmental hazards. This legislation replaces outdated systems at the point of sale and improves neighborhoods and local infrastructure.

“Cesspools are an outdated form of handling wastewater; for this reason, the state banned the installation of new cesspools over 40 years ago,” said Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham). “The main advantage of the using point-of-sale approach for cesspool phase-out is that the cost of replacing a cesspool can be taken into account in the selling price of the home and/or the financing of the home.”

Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) added, “With this new law, we are taking a crucial step toward reducing pollution and contamination of one of our state's most precious natural resources: our water. We are the Ocean State, and because water never stops traveling, every community must be engaged in protecting our resources. I'm proud that this law will set the wheels in motion for the eventual removal of all remaining cesspools, and in doing so eliminating a threat to the health of our marine economy, our environment and the public.”

Janet Coit, director of the Department of Environmental Management, said, “Rhode Island is a national leader in advanced septic technology, yet there are still about 25,000 cesspools throughout the state. Now is the time to eliminate these antiquated and substandard systems and move forward with modern solutions. Great strides have been made over the past decades to reduce the discharge of pollutants into our waters, including a dramatic improvement in our wastewater treatment efforts. I laud the passage of the new point-of-sale requirement and will continue our important efforts to clean up, restore and safeguard Rhode Island's precious water resources.”

Cesspool elimination bill signed into law


Jennifer Quinn; with reporting by Chantee Lans
ROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Governor Gina Raimondo signed a piece of legislation into law Wednesday aimed at protecting public health and the environment.
The law looks to eliminate the remaining 25,000 house cesspools in the state. It was first proposed five years ago by several lawmakers, including House Representative Teresa Tanzi.
“I think it’s a really important day. I think that there’s so many different ways that we’re going to benefit as a state. Without getting too graphic, just consider all of the raw sewage, all of the untreated sewage from your home would leave the home and enter a colander and remain untreated,” said Tanzi.
The new law requires homeowners to replace the cesspool with either a septic tank or hooking up to their municipality’s sewage system less than one year after they sell their home.
Representative Tanzi says replacing a cesspool with a septic tank typically costs between $12,000-$15,000. Homeowners who choose to attach to their municipality’s sewage system pay around $7,000. Two percent loans are available for those who qualify.
Officials estimate that nearly 400 homeowners a year will be removing cesspools, a plan that will help bring out jobs.
“This legislation not only protects our environment, but gets Rhode Islanders in the building trades back to work updating and modernizing our wastewater treatment systems,” said Raimondo. “By setting us on a path to remove cesspools from yards and other property across the state, we will be taking important steps towards improving the water quality of Narragansett Bay, our beaches, and our drinking water.”
An official bill signing ceremony took place at the Save The Bay Center Wednesday morning.

July 15, 2015

Governor signs legislation phasing out cesspools

STATE HOUSE – Legislation that provides for the eventual removal of all cesspools in the state has been signed into law by Gov. Gina Raimondo.

The Senate bill (2015-S 0369A), introduced by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and the House version (2015-H 5668A) introduced by Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) amend the Rhode Island Cesspool Act of 2007, including replacing individual sewage disposal systems with onsite wastewater treatment systems and would require cesspool removal or replacement upon the transfer of the property where the cesspool is located under certain circumstances.

The old law required the phase-out of cesspools located within 200 feet of a shoreline, wetland or drinking water supply. The new law provides for the eventual removal of all cesspools beyond these 200 foot boundaries.

“Cesspools are an outdated form of handling wastewater; for this reason, the state banned the installation of new cesspools over 40 years ago,” said Senator Sosnowski. “The main advantage of the using point-of-sale approach for cesspool phase-out is that the cost of replacing a cesspool can be taken into account in the selling price of the home and/or the financing of the home.”

An onsite wastewater treatment system is any system of piping, tanks, disposal areas, alternative toilets or other facilities designed to function as a unit to convey, store, treat and/or dispose of sanitary sewage by means other than discharge into a public sewer system.

The legislation provides flexibility when it comes to the responsibility of replacing the cesspool at the point of sale, leaving it to agreement whether it will be the responsibility of the buyer or the seller.

“Cesspools are not sewage treatment and they just dump untreated waste into the ground. We’ve recognized the hazards they present to the environment for so long that it’s now been nearly 50 years since our state even allowed new construction of them,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “We’ve made slow progress toward eliminating them, but we need to go further and recognize that nowhere in Rhode Island is an acceptable place for a cesspool.”

Representative Tanzi said the cost to homeowners, which averages $12,000, has long been the sticking point that has prevented the state from eliminating all cesspools in the past, but making the requirement triggered by the transfer of property provides more financing opportunities.

The Clean Water Finance Agency also has two low-interest financing programs to assist homeowners: the Community Septic System Loan Program to replace the cesspool and the Sewer Tie-in Loan Fund for connecting to sewers.

“This is not only a good move for the environment,” said Representative Tanzi. “It is also excellent for jobs and the economy. There are still 25,000 cesspools in our state, and with about 400 of them being eliminated annually under this bill, this is going to put people to work.”