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.”