FRIENDS of WARWICK PONDS May 10, 2022 MEETING SUMMARY 1
FOWPS, Called May 10 meeting to order at 6:10 pm
The environmental phrase of the month is -Biosphere-
The part of the Earth system comprising all ecosystems and living organisms, in the atmosphere, on land (terrestrial biosphere) or in the oceans (marine biosphere), including derived dead organic matter, such as litter, soil organic matter, and oceanic detritus.
Discuss old business.
- Should we invite quests to our meetings: BBC, RIAC, and DEM ETC?
Discuss schedule for remainder 2021. Dr. Shiver’s multiyear preliminary results from their field study of Warwick pond will be presented at our April 18 2022 meeting. We will invite Councilman McElroy and Howe to our June 21, meeting. (See attached)
-Investigate the assumption that the nutrient (Phosphorous) is internal and trapped under the pond sediment. E-mail sent 4/20/2022 to URI Watershed Watch, RIDEM, and RIDOH asking for assistance. URI Watershed Watch has a sediment dredge they will let us borrow. R.I. Analytical will charge $40 per sample. Looking for Eng Firm or other to put together a sampling plan. How many sample, where to sample, etc.
-Consumer Confidence Report 2020. The State of R.I. is # 1 per capita in Bladder Cancer Cases. One of the possible causes could be contaminants in our drinking water. We should all consider installing a water filtration system in our homes. Freedom of Information request submitted. We have agreed to two 20 day extensions before receiving the data requested.
-Project to beautify Avalon (Stanmore) Park has started.
The City is making a long term commitment to support our efforts.
-Investigate tours that FOWPS members can attend.
R.I.Landfill. WSA, RIAC, etc. Invited to National Night Out next year. Will revisit later in 2022.
Discuss old business (continued)
- Staff gauge readings. In April of 1987 the water level was 12.60 ft above sea level. In April of 2022 the water level was 13.90 ft above sea level.
-289 visitors over last 30 days in Web Site activity same as last month.
-Face book reached 315 people over last 30 days an increase of 33%.
-Post engagement 123 people over last 30 days an increase of 34 %.
-265 likes on face book.
-Check with schools if any interest in science student projects. Ruth & I met with Sarah Murray
To participate in Hendricken INSPIRE Program. Follow-up sent 8/14/21 they still are interested in FOWPS participating. When schools are back to normal will follow-up with Warwick Science Dept. Head. They have been notified we are all in to participate.
-The Buckeye Brook Restoration Project is moving at a snail’s pace.
This has been a disaster. Rescheduled completion to Dec 2022. The re-quote came in at slightly over $ 2 Mil. RIDEM came through with a $ 1 mil grant. Project will be presented at the May 16 Council Meeting for approval. Have asked for notification of project starting date. (See attached)
- Buckeye Brook & tributaries to Warwick pond TMDL water quality restoration plan is complete.
We have submitted our public comments in July 2021. Still waiting for response.
-Discuss RIPDES permit process, and proposed workshop that will be scheduled at the Warwick Library followed by a public comment period.
RIPDES Permit expired Sept 2017. We will submit public comment when new permit issued. DEM committed to having a work shop at Warwick Library. DEM is presently working on RIPDES Permit renewal for RIAC.
-FOWPS will develop its wish list for next year’s city budget and beyond to filter Catch Basins around Warwick Pond.
EJP responded with quotes. List completed, we need to verify the number of catch basins. Sample effluent from some catch basin locations to identify what to filter for. Delays
Discuss old business (continued)
-Discuss FOWPS complaint to DEM City not in compliance with O&M plan at Winslow Park.
Plan has not been documented when executed going on 7 years. Executed when 1 inch of precipitation in 24 hours. Weather Bureau estimates more than 600 events met those criteria. DEM investigating. The City was notified in March of 2021 of this issue. Their response was we will look into it. It is now May of 2022, and the number of precipitation events continue, and the water quality in Warwick Pond in those 15 Months where the O&M Plan has not been executed continues to deteriorate. We will take a much more aggressive approach if there is not a substantial resolution soon. More detailed actions to follow. (See attached)
-Investigate feasibility of having realtors informing potential buyers of waterfront property of their responsibilities?
State Legislators were contacted. Do we pursue? Not started
-DISCUSS TMDL FOR GORTON POND WHAT HAS BEEN COMPLETED WHAT IS LEFT?
The data from URI shows some improvement. Need volunteers to conduct water sampling at Sand Pond. Christine follow-up. Progress being made.
-DISCUSS WSA PLANS FOR GORTON POND & OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS?
Attended WSA meeting in Oct. 2020 and more recently July 2021. They are preparing Lake Shore Dr. for repaving. No further update.
Friends of Warwick Ponds had a meeting on the water Sunday afternoon that transitioned into a party at the lakeside home of Bill and Marybeth DeNuccio.
It was a perfect summer day with a southerly breeze, low humidity and plenty of sunshine. Best of all, the water of Warwick Pond was relatively clear and devoid of the blue-green cast that has closed it for the past two summers to swimming. The blue-green algae, more accurately cynobacteria, can be dangerous to humans and animals.
When it appeared for the first time on Warwick Pond, pond resident Phillip D’ercole argued the city should revalue his property since he was being denied of the pond’s use. His outcry resonated with other pond residents who, along with D’ercole, took a fresh look at the environment and what might be the source of the blue-green algae. As water temperature, sunshine and nutrients all have a role in providing conditions for cynobacteria, the group immediately targeted the Rhode Island Airport Corporation and the relocation of the Winslow Park playing fields on the west side of the pond to a potential source of fertilizer being washed into the pond. Studies did not validate their claims but heightened awareness of the potential impacts of home yard fertilizers, failing septic systems and animal waste on the pond.
The friends held regular meetings, inviting speakers from state agencies, higher education and environmental groups to address them. They expanded their base from Warwick Pond to include other ponds in the city as well as streams and rivers. On Sunday members of the group paddled and motored to the center of Warwick Pond to hold an open air, on-the-water meeting. About 40 people were in attendance.
“We’re hoping there’s no algae bloom, although we haven’t done much [in the past year],” D’ercole said. He went on to explain the group has not identified additional sources of nutrients and is waiting for completion of a study examining the constricted outflow of the pond into Buckeye Brook, which is believed to be the cause of higher-than-customary pond levels and the flooding of Lakeshore Drive this spring.
D’ercole said the study is being done under city contract and should be completed this December, but he doesn’t hold out hope that it will be sufficient to gain Department of Environmental Management approval to open up the brook. He fears the work could require an alteration to the fresh water wetland permit with demand for involvement from the Army Corps of Engineers and an environmental impact statement.
“At the minimum, we’re looking at a one-year delay,” he said.
He said the group has been taking water samples from Skin Flint Brook that flows into the north end of the pond from Spring Green Pond and runoff from Confreda Farm.
“We may be able to find some nutrients,” he said.
Meanwhile, D’ercole and the group said the cooler-than-usual summer along with more rain, which has meant less sunshine, might offer a reprieve from cynobacteria.
“The water looks clear on one day and then three or four days later it turns green,” said Marybeth DeNuccio, who hosted the post-meeting picnic at her home while her husband took the occasion to go water skiing.
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.
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.”