Posted Tuesday, November 14, 2017 1:40 pm
To the Editor:
While driving past Stanmore Park (on Warwick Pond) this past weekend, we observed someone raking and bagging leaves. My comment to my wife was we must stop on our return and thank the person. On our return he had gone. We later found out who it was.
We give Bruce Webb, a member of the Buckeye Brook Coalition, a big Friends of Warwick Ponds thank you for taking this initiative. I asked Bruce what motivated him to do this. He told me that after reading the e-mail from Linda Green about how leaves could affect water quality on Candlewood Lake he needed to do something.
This highlights how effective sharing information is. It is actions like this that keep the passion burning brightly for Friends of Warwick Ponds as we continue our journey towards clean Warwick waters. Thank you.
Friends of Warwick Ponds Association
Our next Friends of Warwick Ponds meeting will be on Thursday April 19th @ 6 PM in the small meeting room at the Warwick Public Library.
Friends of Warwick Ponds attended URI Watershed Watch 30 year anniversary on Nov 5th at the Kingston Campus. Photos are members of FOWPS Ruth Page, Phil D’Ercole and Carmen D’Ercole who manned the display table. Ruth discussing water quality issues with a water quality sampling volunteer from Gorton Pond. Last but not least Director Janet Coit from RIDEM stops by to say hello.
Friends of Warwick Ponds thanks URI Watershed Watch for 30 years of dedication to collect and document water quality data. We also thank Director Janet Coit and her staff for all they have done and continue to do to improve Warwick Water Quality.
FRIENDS of WARWICK PONDS Mar 14, 2018 MEETING SUMMARY 1
Called meeting to order at 6:05 pm
The environmental phrase of the month is CFCs. Short for ‘Chloroflurocarbons’, which are
Chemicals used in manufacturing and in the past in aerosol cans and refrigerators, which can
Damage the ozone layer.
- Should we invite quests to our meetings: BBC, RIAC, and DEM ETC? We will invite quests as required. Attendance by FOWPS for these events will need to be known in advance. Will invite Dr Steven Shivers to May 17th meeting.
-Do we want to pursue the long term project for tree planting in Warwick? Planning Director DePasquale is investigating alternatives. Will follow up in coming months. Reminder sent 2/5/18. Will follow-up in April. See attached.
-How will the DPW communicate with the public on the results of the action items from the
Consent Agreement between the city, and DEM. The progress report will be posted on the
cities web site. www.warwick .gov, click government, public works, RIDEM Consent Decree. Last update Feb 2018. See attached.
-How do we attract more supporters? Rick to investigate setting up table at library and Farmers Markets, etc. Project team Rick, Phil, Madeline. How will we use the new form? New form is posted at the library. Form now posted at Dave’s Market. Ongoing See attached
- Additional sampling upstream of Warwick Pond. First samples started 5/11. Results attached. Sent to DEM for analysis. Tried to get city to pay for additional sampling for 2018. They denied that request and also reneged on paying URI for the 2017 sampling. See attached.
-Volunteer opportunity, evaluate staff gauge data. Obtain other pertinent data. Disseminate To public. Chart for quarterly readings. Chart for Jan 2018 to March 2018. Chart for July 2016 to Jan 2018. Will investigate high school senior project opportunity. Warwick Teachers notified in March.
-482 visitors over last 30 days in Web Site activity increase of 87%.
-Face book reached 30 people.
Page 1 3/15/18
FRIENDS of WARWICK PONDS Mar 14, 2018 MEETING SUMMARY 2
-Check with colleges if any interest in science student project. We will revisit this action each year.
-The Buckeye Brook Waterway Study is moving at a snail’s pace. We have requested that FOWPS be involved in discussions and decisions pertaining to water quality issues of Warwick Pond. EA Engineering completed the project. The City has prepared another RFP 2018-251 which is on the March 19th City Council Agenda. We are trying to obtain the details. See attached
-What is our answer to DEM response on RIAC use of Fire Fighting Foams? Our response will be
that starting immediately, all discharging of foam will be with the new non toxic material. Will discuss at DEM meeting Sept 8th. DEM is evaluating our request. Oct 2017 is the one year anniversary of this request. Request sent 2/1/18 Is RIAC still using toxic foam. Response from DEM dated March 8th. See attached.
-Schedule meet and greet with new RIAC CEO. New CEO is still too busy to meet with us. Will
schedule meeting with his designated representative. In process to set date and attendees. The
meeting date is March 30 at RIAC. See attached.
-No swimming signs. Request sent Sept 18, 2017 to RIDOH, RIDEM, and WDPW. E-mail from City
on 12/5 city notified Algae Bloom alert lifted on 11/20/17. Highway dept notified signs will be removed ASAP. Algae Bloom signs removed no swimming signs remain. See attached.
-Discuss RI conservation districts invitation to join steering committee for Warwick Pond and
Oakland Beach. Will update each quarter. March meeting cancelled. See attached.
-The Buckeye Brook & tributaries to Warwick pond water quality restoration plan was presented at the library. In general there needs to be more testing by RIAC for specific metals and less storm water runoff by all. They will add some of the findings with request for additional testing to the upcoming RIPDES permit renewal. Public comments sent 1/22/18. No response 3/15. See attached.
-Discuss RIPDES permit process, and proposed workshop that will be scheduled at the Warwick Library followed by a public comment period. The first enforceable RIPDES permit was issued to RIAC in 1987. The permit expires every 5 years. The next enforceable RIPDES permit was issued to RIAC in 2012. We are looking for this to occur in spring 2018. See attached
-See meeting minutes attached
3. New business:
-FOWPS will develop its wish list for next year’s city budget and beyond. See attached
-Request FOWPS banner be posted at Winslow Park at no charge. There has been a change in the
President of the league. Do not feel this should be pursued.
-Discuss if any interest in scheduling and completing a Warwick Pond clean-up Sun April 22. We
Will ask for volunteers to clean up Warwick Pond at Stanmore Park, Fire Lane off Lake Shore Dr, and
The wooded area prior to Skinflint Brook just before the bridge.
Page 2 3/15/2018
Following a summer when the waters of Warwick Pond turned green, those living on the pond and concerned citizens have come together to take action to protect city water resources.
In August, the Department of Health (HEALTH) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issued an advisory, urging residents to avoid contact with Warwick Pond water due to cyanobacteria. Better known as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria can produce toxins, although after testing by both departments no toxins were found in Warwick Pond.
The advisory was lifted Nov. 1, but that hasn’t stopped resident concerns. The Friends of Warwick Ponds, established in the aftermath of the bloom, aims to bring together community, state, municipal and Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) leaders to combat issues of pollution not only in Warwick Pond, but all water resources throughout the city.
The self proclaimed “action group” has 24 “action members” with an estimated 200 supporters on an outgoing email list.
Philip D’Ercole, who has lived on the pond for 13 years and was one of the loudest voices at public meetings concerning Warwick Pond, acts as facilitator of the group, which has no singular authoritative power. The group was created by a resolution introduced by Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Councilman Joseph Solomon.
Although the group has met four times since November, their subcommittees, which work on singular projects, such as meetings with various groups, and specific pollution initiatives, meet more frequently and report back to the whole group.
After the closing of the pond, there was initial backlash from the community blaming RIAC construction projects for increased nutrients that led to the bloom, and subsequent inquiry to residents’ own part in the pollution.
D’Ercole said Friends of Warwick Ponds is no longer trying to play the “blame game,” but rather wants to “take a positive outlook to creating solutions by bringing people together to see change.”
Richard Corrente, who is a Democratic candidate for mayor, is also part of the group. He is concerned with the perception that Warwick waters are polluted and that people considering moving into the city may opt out, while residents may think of leaving. He said he talked with an unnamed appraiser who told him property values surrounding the pond could decrease by 20 percent with polluted waters and increase by the same amount for “pristine waters.”
In the coming year, Friends of Warwick Ponds wants to ensure that when summer comes, even if the water in Warwick Pond isn’t yet pristine, it is at least safe for use all season long.
“What we have here is a group with passion and a desire to see real change,” D’Ercole said. “This is actually right in our backyard. This affects our daily lives. It’s a safety and health concern for us all.”
Marybeth and Bill DeNuccio, as well as Chet Foster, all “action” members of Friends of Warwick Ponds, noted that although the group’s initial focus is on cleaning their own pond, they have city and statewide ambitions.
Bill DeNuccio, who has lived on the pond for more than 30 years with his parents and then bought the same property 18 years ago, said he has never seen the water so unclear. Not only has the water quality been affected, but he argues the wildlife has drastically changed in just the last two years.
“This is the biggest inland body of water in Warwick. If it can be destroyed like this, what about the others? It won’t take as much to see their destruction,” he said. “I want to see solutions. No more arguing, just people doing the right thing.”
His wife, Marybeth, said because all of these bodies of water are connected, flow into each other and then out into the bay, the pollution of Warwick Pond is a statewide concern.
“This is a widespread issue and the more agencies we can get involved, the more progress we will see.”
The group’s dedication to all of Warwick’s waterways is evident in their name, Foster pointed out. Rather than just friends of Warwick pond, the group made the distinction of Warwick Ponds.
He said, “We want this information and resources available to all. We are looking beyond just our own problem, but ones we could be seeing in the future. We have a willingness to share this information.”
D’Ercole warned that the group as well as the agencies they partner with need to establish a sustainable plan of action, or else the pond could be “right back” to the conditions seen this summer a few years down the road.
Already the group has met with Mayor Scott Avedisian and plans to submit a budgetary letter requesting the city to allocate $150,000 to the group for a “thorough cleanup” of Warwick Pond, while also requesting that budget see similar increases for environmental initiatives citywide.
Avedisian said the group has a “good perspective” of everything they need to do to bring Warwick Pond back to health, but warned Friends of Warwick Ponds that this will be a long process.
The city already meets with DEM regularly, and the action group plans to sit down with the department early in February.
“When we look at the budget we can see if any of their line items can be funded,” Avedisian said. “I think we need to dovetail the city’s efforts with theirs to see what they want accomplished in the next year.”
Friends of Warwick Ponds also met with Kelly Fredericks, RIAC CEO and president, but not long after the meeting he announced he would be leaving the position.
“We aren’t going to back away from this, we won’t stop and that’s what they aren’t used to,” D’Ercole said. “These agencies are supposed to protect not just the environment, but our health and safety, too. I don’t feel protected. We are going to stay focused like a laser with this and make sure we are heard.”
Pond concerns persist
Although the health advisory has been lifted for Warwick Pond, residents continue to be concerned for the well-being of the pond.
In August, the Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Health issued the advisory after the presence of blue-green algae blooms, or cyanobacteria was detected.
The bloom can produce harmful toxins, and although no toxins were found in Warwick Pond, residents were urged to avoid contact and ingestion of the water.
The advisory led to several public meetings to discuss the cause of the bloom and what resident could do to prevent a similar event happening next year.
One resident, Philip D’ercole, held his own meeting to express his own concerns that the increased nutrient levels leading to the algae blooms were caused by construction by the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC).
Elizabeth Scott, Deputy Chief of DEM’S Office of Water Resources, reassured in an email that all RIAC’s “RI Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit” has regulations put in place to protect receiving waters, Warwick Pond included. DEM monitors the airport’s compliance to these regulations.
In an email D’ercole agreed that the pond water has improved visually, but “believe[s] the pollution issues still remain.” He worries that without action from all parties the algae blooms will become a yearly occurrence, especially because pollution is “still being discharged into the water from many sources.”
An outcome of the bloom has been the creation of the Warwick Pond Association, which aims to bring residents and officials together to seek solutions to reduce pollutants and sources of excess nutrients. The association is having its first meeting tonight at the Warwick Public Library beginning at 6, but is not open to the public.
Currently, there are 20 volunteers who will represent the residents of the pond.
“These members will have the knowledge, the passion, the dedication, that will project to all, from now on it will no longer be business as usual,” D’ercole said. “The movement is coming.”
An additional concern of his, as well as fellow resident Madeline White, is RIAC’s hydroseeding initiatives along the culvert near Lakeshore Drive, which feeds into Warwick Pond.
White called the Beacon a few weeks ago to express her worries about the seeding.
“I’ve lived along the pond for 60 years. It’s heartbreaking what’s happened to Warwick pond,” White said. “It just seems to me that our concerns about the health of our pond and the whole ecosystem aren’t being listened to.”
She argued that the main concern with the algae blooms is the introduction of excess nutrients and that the hydroseeding would only worsen the issue.
White said that even if DEM and other agencies are watching over RIAC’s projects, and the airport is complying, the regulations themselves are too lenient.
D’ercole said, “The hydro seeding continues in areas that abut tributaries to Warwick Pond. When that happens it gives the residents an impression that there is very little concern by the organizations involved, DEM, RIAC, about the water quality of the pond.”
Rebecca Bromberg Pazienza, marketing and communications relations for RIAC, explained that the airport is hydroseeding because their permits with DEM won’t allow for any exposed soil in fear or erosion.
The seeding being used is a seed, water and fiber mulch mixture that should not create any significant additional nutrients and therefore minimal effect on the water quality. The fiber mulch has a green colored tactifier to help the seed stick and for workers to know where it has been applied according to Bromberg Pazienza.
Scott of DEM said, “There is some amount of fertilizer contained in hydroseed to promote the initial growth of grass; we don’t expect that there would be a significant release nor that this would be an ongoing source. Hydroseeding is widely used but there are other techniques available to re-establish vegetation.”
“You call all these agencies for help, you call DEM then you find out that don’t have the power to do anything. It is just mind boggling,” White said. “I don’t understand how we have gotten to this point when we are supposed to have all the agencies fighting to protect the environment.”
Bromberg Pazienza said that RIAC has a “great working relationship” with the URI Watershed and the Buckeye Brook Coalition, but because they are permitted under DEM they “take their lead” from them.
Scott said, “We have been providing data and technical information to the city and others in response to concerns and will continue to do so including work with the newly formed pond association.”