Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edward S. Rhodes Elementary School has a new mascot!

Video produced, shot, and edited by Ryan Ledoux

After receiving the majority vote, the horseshoe crab is the new (360 million year-old) mascot of Edward S. Rhodes Elementary School in Cranston!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Environmental Enforcement - The Dire Need for Funding and Political Will


Enforcement of environmental law is critical to our natural resources, public health and safety. However, an effective enforcement program depends on funding and the political will of the enforcement agency itself, from the top down, as well as the Governor and the General Assembly.

Protecting Narragansett Bay and its spectacular 384-mile coastline from environmental damage is a core function of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). Timely and consistent enforcement action stops the degradation of the environment and protects public health and first responders. Conducting and following up on inspections, and keeping the public informed of enforcement actions, serves as a deterrent to environmental violations.

Save The Bay Executive Director Jonathan Stone 

presents an open letter and petition encouraging 
Governor Gina Raimondo to increase environmental 
enforcement at a press conference at the Statehouse. 
However, the drastic decrease in the number of violations issued is evidence of a marked erosion of environmental enforcement and actions over the past decade. That, combined with the delay in resolving violations, allows ongoing pollution, negative health impacts and other environmental harm to continue. Further, DEM has failed to recover penalties sufficient to discourage others from violating the law. Those who violate should be economically penalized. As it currently stands, violators often enjoy an economic advantage over those who comply with the law.

As the citizens’ voice for Narragansett Bay, Save The Bay has been working to fully understand how the taxpayer-funded DEM is performing its core function. DEM has not updated the Compliance and Inspection Annual Report since 2013, so the number of cases waiting for enforcement in court is not available to the public. In 2016, Save The Bay filed a public records request with DEM, seeking the list of cases waiting for enforcement in court, so that we can evaluate the current ongoing harm to the environment by delay. DEM denied the request, claiming the information was protected by attorney-client privilege, among other reasons, and was backed by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.

Without this information, understanding the current risks to our health and the environment is difficult. However, our research of DEM’s online enforcement reports from past years reveals glaring examples of delayed enforcement impacting our environment, including failing septic systems discharging sewage that continue for years without repair, direct discharges of wastewater into rivers, ongoing discharges of pollutants to the Bay from stormwater and various other sources, and wetland violations that go on for decades, making it difficult to restore damaged wetlands systems.

In December 2015, Save The Bay called on R.I. Governor Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly to reverse a decade of decline in resources for environmental enforcement. We placed an ad in the Providence Journal, publishing our letter requesting enforcement funding. At a Statehouse press conference, the Rhode Island Builders Association joined us in amplifying our call for stronger enforcement. We submitted a petition with nearly 2,000 signatures, urging the R.I. General Assembly and Governor Raimondo to increase staff for enforcement at DEM and CRMC. The governor responded by adding two DEM enforcement positions to her budget proposal, but these positions were removed without comment by the General Assembly at the end of its 2016 session. Curiously, no additional enforcement positions were included in Governor Raimondo’s FY2018 budget this year.

Lack of political will—and the resources needed to enforce the law—puts our environment and health at risk. Some of our leaders cling to an age-old mindset that enforcement is anti-business. But when you think about it, the reverse is true: timely, consistent and strong enforcement (with timely inspections and penalties) benefits those that comply with the law and penalizes those that violate the law. That is good for the State’s economic health because it promotes a level playing field for all businesses. This is no small matter in a state that touts its natural resources and aspires to be more business-friendly.

Recent appointments and pronouncements from the new administration in Washington, D.C. only increase the urgency for Rhode Island leaders to demonstrate that the Ocean State means business when it comes to protecting our Bay and our natural resources. We urge you to contact Governor Raimondo, and your state senator and representative today. Let them know that our environment is important, and that we expect DEM and CRMC to be sufficiently funded so they can detect and deter violations and protect our health, safety and Narragansett Bay.

This article was originally printed in the Spring 2017 issue of 'Tides Magazine.' 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Summer Adventures with Save The Bay

By Dan Blount, BayCamp Director

Growing up, I was lucky enough to spend all of my summers on Prudence Island. My Mom was a teacher, and we would be ferrying to Prudence on the last day of school, and would not head back until two or three days before the next school year. I would be kicked out of the house by nine every morning, and would not come back until dinner time. I spent my days fishing, swimming, exploring and having fun with my friends. At the age of 14, I bought my first boat, and my friends and I would go everywhere in it. We explored every inch of the island coastline.

Because we spent the whole summer on Prudence, I never attended camp as a child, so I had no idea what to expect when I took over as Camp Director of Save the Bay. What I did know was that if I could provide campers with even a small view of my experiences as a child, they would have an unforgettable time. My goal when we board the boat in the morning is do something that both the campers, and sometimes the staff, has never done. Some of our adventures from last year included floating down the creek at Cog shell cove with the tide, blue crab hunting on Prudence and our cannon ball contest off of M/V Elizabeth Morris anchored off Barrington Beach.

The BayCamp program at Save the Bay offers a truly unique experience. Giving our campers the ability to learn about marine science and Narragansett Bay, all while having fun is very important. Too often, kids would rather stay inside and watch tv or play on the computer, and we hope that by introducing them to how fun the Bay can be, it will encourage them to get out and explore the Bay.

Our BayCamps are for kids grades K-12 (completed), and are based out of Providence, Wickford, Newport and Bristol. You can see the full summer schedule on our website. For any questions about camps, please contact me, Dan Blount, at

Monday, May 8, 2017

Microplastics in our Waters | Riverkeeper Blog

By Rachel Calabro, Save The Bay Riverkeeper

Microplastics are bits of plastic debris that are less than 5 mm in size. They are prevalent in ocean waters and on beaches where they pose a risk to marine life. Microplastics can come from break-up of large plastic that ends up in the ocean, or they can be microbeads or pellets that are manufactured. Synthetic fibers that either wash into the ocean or come from ropes and nets are also counted. These synthetic fibers often come from our polyester fleece clothing and can enter the ocean through the waste stream. Plastic microbeads first started showing up in personal care products more than 50 years ago. Their use increased until 2015, when President Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act. This act calls for the phase-out of microbeads in personal care products such as toothpaste and soaps.

According to an article in the Journal of Science, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. As this plastic breaks down over time, it adds to the prevalence of tiny bits of plastic that can be ingested by marine organisms. Studies are now being done on what this plastic does to animals in terms of feeding changes, reproduction and accumulation of toxins or as a vector for pathogens. Other studies are looking at how chemicals such as flame retardants leach out of plastics or how other chemicals stick to plastics. Different types of plastics react differently when they break down or when they are subjected to digestive juices in animals. Many animals tend to eat these particles because they are covered in algae. Studies are also being done to understand the types of algae that live on microplastics.

If fish are ingesting these particles, we are too. They even show up in sea salt made from evaporated ocean water. Save The Bay is interested in how much microplastic is in the waters of Narragansett Bay. In order to learn more, we are teaming up with Clean Water Action to trawl the Bay this summer to find out how much we can collect and where in the Bay it is found. We will take that information and share it with policymakers and the public to find ways to stop plastic from entering the Bay. You can make a difference by using less plastic and making sure that what you do use gets recycled.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Lighthouses illuminate the way in May - STB Podcast 18

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Becoming Fluent in Effluent - The BayKeeper's Introduction to Providence Wastewater History

By Mike Jarbeau, Save The Bay BayKeeper

Recently, Save The Bay’s board of directors was invited to tour the Narragansett Bay Commission’s Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment facility in Providence. As the new Narragansett Baykeeper, I was able to tag along and dive headfirst (figuratively) into the operations of one of the nation’s oldest treatment facilities. I knew it would be interesting to look at the history of wastewater treatment in the area, including Save The Bay’s work to address wastewater pollution.

As Providence and surrounding areas developed in the 1800s, residents adhered to the old adage that “the solution to pollution is dilution.” Household and industrial waste was deposited into the nearest river where it was thought to float away harmlessly. However, as populations increased, it became apparent that local tributaries couldn’t handle the waste, and health issues rose dramatically. A sewage treatment facility was brought online at Field’s Point in 1901. Despite a series of improvements as wastewater treatment technologies developed, the facility struggled to keep up with demand. By the 1970s infrastructure was failing, and nearly 65 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage were flowing into Narragansett Bay every day. Shellfish beds were closed due to contamination, and reports of sludge floating in the Bay were common.

In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, which regulates the discharge of pollutants into waterways. In 1979, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Rhode Island and Save The Bay, sued the city of Providence over ongoing discharges of raw sewage from the inadequate Field’s Point plant. In the 1980s, Save The Bay brought attention to wastewater treatment plants through a report called “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Save The Bay also published a report in 1988 highlighting the threats from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that direct flow directly into the Bay when storms overwhelm the capacity of the treatment facility.

The Narragansett Bay Commission (which took over management of Field’s Point in 1982) initiated a major project to address CSO discharge problem. After a comprehensive process with significant input from Save The Bay and other stakeholders, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management approved the first phase of the CSO Abatement Plan. The plan featured a three-mile long storage tunnel that was drilled under the city of Providence. The tunnel was completed in 2008 and can hold about 65 million gallons of stormwater and wastewater when rain overwhelms the Field’s Point plant. This wastewater is then redirected for treatment as demand returns to normal at the facility.

Today, the Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Facility is capable of treating up to 200 million gallons of wastewater a day. The treatment process takes about 12 hours from when it enters the facility until it is discharged. Save The Bay works closely with the Narragansett Bay Commission to monitor Bay conditions and continues to engage on current and future projects to place the health of Narragansett Bay at the forefront of all decisions. As Baykeeper, I’m proud of the work Save The Bay has done and will continue to work with our leadership and policy team as we fight for our Bay.