PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Because summer weather will soon tempt local youth to find a place to swim, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is reminding the public how to safely enjoy the Woonasquatucket River.

Exposure to contamination in and along the river may pose a health risk to residents of Johnston, Providence, and North Providence. While progress has been made cleaning dioxin contaminated areas, EPA advises parents and other adults to make sure children remain protected from contaminants remaining in the water, sediment and soil.

In addition to following health-protective guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control, as well as local, state and municipal directives during the pandemic, EPA’s New England office advises area residents to follow these precautions when spending time at the Woonasquatucket River:

  • Do not come into contact with the Woonasquatucket River water; this includes wading in shallow water or swimming in the river.
  • Wash thoroughly after any contact with the river water, sediment or soil.
  • Do not eat fish, turtles, eels, other wildlife or plants from the river.
  • Do not dig into the river banks.
  • Obey the warning signs posted along the river.

While following any current federal, state and local health guidelines, the public can safely walk, run or bike along the river and paddle a canoe or kayak on the river.

EPA continues to make progress cleaning up the river. In July 2018, the United States and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) entered into a settlement with two subsidiaries of Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. – Emhart Industries Inc. and Black & Decker, Inc. – who agreed to implement the September 2012 cleanup plan selected by EPA to clean up dioxin contaminated sediment and soil at the Centredale Manor Superfund Site.

The cleanup includes a cap over waste in the peninsula where the Centredale Manor and Brook Village apartment complexes are located and excavation of contaminated sediment and floodplain soil in the Allendale Pond, the large wetland below the Allendale Dam, and the Lyman Mill Pond. The cleanup is proceeding in phases along the Woonasquatucket River from Route 44 down to the Lyman Mill Dam and will take 5-6 years to complete.

The contractor under EPA and RIDEM oversight began field activities in 2019 and since then has completed construction of a protective cap on the peninsula. A sluice gate on the Lyman Mill dam also has been repaired. The contractor has been collecting samples and other pre-construction information in the ponds and wetlands along the Allendale and Lyman Mill stretches of the River. Water in both Ponds is intermittently lowered to allow these activities to take place. Residents and visitors along the river can expect to see field crews and equipment related to these cleanup actions. Excavation and removal of sediments is expected to start in 2022 in Allendale Pond.

EPA will update residents as the cleanup progresses. The cleanup plan is available at the North Providence and Johnston public libraries and on EPA’s website. EPA is working closely with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council to coordinate the cleanup with future restoration and public uses of the river.

More information:

David Deegan (

(617) 918-1017