Clear waters...for now...delight Friends of Warwick Ponds

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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.

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