Water quality of Pawcatuck River is focus of meeting Wednesday

Water quality of Pawcatuck River is focus of meeting Wednesday


WESTERLY — The public is invited to attend a meeting Wednesday to learn about recommended strategies for restoring water quality in the Pawcatuck River.

The meeting, to be hosted by the state Department of Environmental Management, is scheduled for 4 p.m. in the Westerly Public Library auditorium. At this meeting, DEM staff will be joined by counterparts from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, who will describe complementary efforts to develop bacteria total maximum daily loads, a calculation of maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, for Connecticut waters located within the bi-state Pawcatuck River basin.

A second meeting, to discuss water quality in the Hunt River will be held on May 29 at 4 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room at the East Greenwich Police Station.

Officials will discuss recommended strategies for restoring water quality in six river segments. These six river segments will be added as an update to the 2011 Rhode Island Statewide Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which addresses bacteria-related impairments to 57 water bodies throughout Rhode Island. Five of the six river segments are located in the Pawcatuck River watershed: two in the Pawcatuck River and one each in Spring Brook, Acid Factory Brook, and Baker Brook. The sixth river segment (Pierce Brook) is located in the Hunt River watershed.

During the meeting in East Greenwich, DEM will review available water quality information for the Hunt River and Potowomut Cove, as well as recommendations contained in the 2001 Hunt River TMDL document. Representatives from the towns of East Greenwich and North Kingstown will be on hand to describe municipal storm water management program activities in these watersheds.

Data indicate that bacteria levels in these waters exceed the state’s enterococci bacteria standards, which are established to be protective of swimming and other recreational uses, such as canoeing and kayaking. The study was prepared using bacteria data from the surface waters, aerial photographs, pollution source information, and other watershed studies. This information was used to characterize water quality conditions, identify pollution sources, calculate necessary pollutant reductions, and outline an implementation strategy to abate bacteria sources such that water quality standards can ultimately be attained. The study finds that a wide-range of bacteria reductions is needed to meet water quality standards.

Recommended implementation activities for the six river segments focus on storm water, wastewater, agricultural, and wildlife and waterfowl management. Depending on the watershed, the study recommends the implementation of various best management practices to mitigate storm water sources of bacteria, including common sense pollution prevention efforts such as encouraging residents to pick up their pet waste. Other recommendations relate to the identification and elimination of illicit discharges. In watersheds with onsite wastewater treatment systems, the study recommends actions to ensure proper operation and maintenance of these systems.

According to DEM, community participation is essential to the success of any water quality restoration effort. The meetings are intended to provide an opportunity for municipal officials and members of the community to hear about the study’s findings and recommendations, learn about the recommended pollution abatement activities, and provide feedback to DEM on the study. DEM encourages public participation at this “critical stage” of the process, the DEM said. The documents are available online at: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/benviron/water/quality/swbtmdl.htm.

DEM is accepting public comments on the documents until June 20. Comments can be submitted in writing to Heidi Travers in DEM’s Office of Water Resources, 235 Promenade St, Providence, RI 02906 or via email at Heidi.Travers@dem.ri.gov.

For more information on the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection TMDL, contact Chris Sullivan at 860-424-3514 or via email at christopher.sullivan@ct.gov. For additional information about the public meetings or the DEM updates to its Statewide Bacteria TMDL, contact Heidi Travers via email at Heidi.Travers@dem.ri.gov or call 401-222-4700 ext. 7613.

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