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 February 8th @ 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 Feb 8, 2018 MEETING AGENDA 1
Call meeting to order:
The environmental phrase of the month is Carbon footprint. A measure of the impact our
Activities have on the environment, especially climate change, often reported as units of tonnes
(or kg) of Carbon Dioxide each of us produces over a given period of time.
- 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. We will discuss inviting Molly Allard facilitator for the steering committee for Warwick Pond/Oakland Beach to our Feb 8th meeting. Molly Allard will attend our Feb 8th meeting. See attached.
-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. 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 updated June 2017, Oct 2017. See attached will follow up in Jan.
-How do we attract more supporters? Investigate table at library and Farmers Markets. Project team Rick, Phil, Madeline. How will we use the new form? New form is posted at the library. Ongoing See attached
- Additional sampling upstream of Warwick Pond. First samples started 5/11. URI contacted when we can receive early results for nutrients. We will have results the end of Jan 2018.
-Volunteer opportunity, evaluate staff gauge data. Obtain other pertinent data. Disseminate To public. Chart for Oct thru Dec 2017, Jan 2017 to Dec 2017 and July 2016 to Dec 2017. See attached. Contacted Linda Green if student interested in doing project?
-360 visitors over last 30 days in Web Site activity increase of 29%.
-Face book reached 29 people a decrease of -70%
Page 1 1/19/18
FRIENDS of WARWICK PONDS Feb 8, 2018 MEETING AGENDA 2
-Check with colleges if any interest in science student project. We will revisit this action each year
-Discuss requesting change for 2018 MS4 permit reporting. Viewing hrs very restrictive, all residents cannot view. Freedom of Information requested 9/28/17 to view charter policy for public comment period possible changes. There is no policy in the charter. We will discuss how to proceed with our request at Dec 6th meeting. Request sent to Mayor Dec 7th. Will follow up end of Jan. See attached.
-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 has completed field work. Will have results in 2 weeks. Then will discuss plan to present to DEM. No update. Will discuss at DEM meeting on Sept 8th. Dem also had very little information. Update requested 9/27 with no response. We will send another follow-up e-mail to the city. Follow-up sent 10/10/17. Will follow-up 11/7/17. Latest update Dec 6th. Follow up in Jan ask what are the obstructions. Copy of study results requested Jan 16th.
-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. Will follow-up in Jan.
-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 need agenda. 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. Follow up in Jan. See attached
-Discuss RI conservation districts invitation to join steering committee for Warwick Pond and
Oakland Beach. Good opportunity for FOWPS. See attached
-Discuss the results of the public meeting by DEM for the Buckeye Brook & tributaries to Warwick pond water quality restoration plan. In general there needs to be more testing by RIAC for specific metals and less storm water runoff by all. Will e-mail our public comments to Skip Viator 1/22/18
-See meeting minutes attached
3. New business:
-Briefly discuss the upcoming RIPDES permit process, and proposed workshop that will
Be scheduled at the Warwick Library followed by a public comment period.
Page 2 1/19/2018
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.”