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A sinkhole that developed during the heavy rains on July 4 has been temporarily repaired. The patched area is located in downtown Westerly, on High Street in the crosswalk in front of the post office. | Grace White/The Westerly Sun

State to assess street drainage problem in Westerly

WESTERLY — The state Department of Transportation has agreed to provide engineering services to assess the High Street drainage system that caused a July 4 sinkhole and to provide long-term repair options.

State Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-Westerly, said Thursday that state transportation officials agreed to provide the assistance earlier in the day.

He said it was too early to assign a dollar value to the department’s work beyond observing, “That in and of itself will be expensive.”

Town Engineer Paul LeBlanc said a decades-old drainage culvert that carries stormwater to the Pawcatuck River ruptured during heavy rains on July 4.

He said the problem was the result of the 2010 floods, which inundated the system, as well as a water main failure in the fall of 2013 that caused 500 gallons of water to shoot underground, undermining the culvert’s gravel and soil packing.

Algiere joined LeBlanc, Town Manager Michelle Buck, and other town officials Monday morning for an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.

Officials agreed, Algiere said, that the problem was likely caused by the 2010 flood but said disaster relief funds earmarked by the federal government following that storm are no longer available.

LeBlanc told the Town Council on Monday he was concerned that a temporary repair performed by town crews would not withstand even a “small storm.” He said $300,000 remaining from a 2010 road bond approved by voters could be used to expand on the temporary repair but estimated that a permanent fix, using contemporary design and engineering standards, would cost about $1 million.

Algiere said the culvert failure is a symptom of a greater problem.

“This is characteristic of our aging infrastructure, not just in Rhode Island but throughout the country,” he said.

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