Friday, January 26, 2018

Safe Drug Disposal in Rhode Island

by Rachel Calabro, Riverkeeper

When we have drugs in our homes that are expired or no longer needed, many of us are confused as to the safest way to dispose of them. The Rhode Island Department of Health recommends that medications in your home be disposed of at these safe disposal and drug take back sites.

You may be tempted to flush your medications or just toss them in the trash, but both of these methods have some negative consequences.

Flushing your medications can be problematic because the substances can get through the wastewater treatment plant and into our waterways, affecting fish and wildlife. Traces of medications, including as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and high blood pressure drugs, are already showing up in water samples. If you have a septic system, these pharmaceutical substances can leach out into the groundwater and enter our drinking water supply, causing problems for people who are sensitive to these substances. And while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently recommends flushing certain prescription pain medications because of the current opioid crisis and a desire to prevent these meds from being discovered and stolen, doing so creates a problem for water quality.

Infographic: Drugs in the Water cycle

If you dispose of drugs in the trash, the common recommendation is to take them from their original container and hide them in another bag mixed with something like coffee grounds; the idea here is to disguise them so they aren’t accidentally found by pets or children. Unfortunately, while safer then flushing, trash disposal creates similar problems, because the medications end up in landfills and can contribute to pollution.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 53 percent of people who misused prescription opioids got them from family or friends. Because of this, CVS Health has increased the number of drug take back sites, and many retailers, including Walmart, are providing packets called DisposeRx, which contain a substance that renders medication inert and unusable.

More and more people are taking drugs for various health issues, and these products are entering waterways. The best way to protect ourselves is to use safe drug take back sites.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Recalling the North Cape Oil Spill: Could it happen again, sooner than we think?

by Topher Hamblett, advocacy director

Twenty-two years ago, on January 19, 1996, Rhode Islanders were shocked by the grounding of North Cape oil barge off of Moonstone Beach during a brutal nor’easter. It’s hull had ruptured, releasing 820,000 gallons of home heating oil into Rhode Island Sound and the Salt Ponds of the South Coast. The barge was being towed by the tugboat Scandia on a journey that never should have happened in the first place.

North Cape Oil Spill, January 18, 1996. Photo: E. Gundlach
The impact was devastating. An excerpt from Save The Bay’s Bay Bulletin in the Spring of 1996 tells the story:  “Millions of lobsters, surf clams, sea stars and other forms of marine life washed up dead and dying on the shores of Moonstone Beach. Hundreds of birds, including loons, sea ducks, gulls, and grebes were from the Rhode Island mainland and Block Island with only a few surviving. A 250-square-mile area surrounding the wrecked barge was closed to fishing and shellfishing, impacting the lives and jobs of many in the commercial fishing industry. Oil penetrated to a depth of three feet on the pristine Moonstone swimming beach, and estuarine ponds behind the barrier beach were polluted by saturated water.”

Images of dead marine life and oiled birds are seared into the memories of anyone who saw the reports on television or went to Moonstone Beach to see it for themselves or participate in the cleanup.

When news of disaster reached Save The Bay, we had to move fast (and remember, this was in the pre-internet age). Staff raced to the scene for up-to-the-minute information from the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other responders, and to advocate for aggressive cleanup, damage assessments, and recovery plans. Volunteers had to be trained, on site, for bird rescue. 

At our small offices on Smith Street in Providence, it was all hands on deck. We set up a phone bank to manage the flood of calls from concerned citizens wanting to help with the rescue of marine life and cleanup of oiled shorelines. The response was overwhelming: more than 3,000 people called our offices, and we deployed and trained 1,200 volunteers to assist with federal and independent (our own) environmental damage assessments.  
The U.S. Coast Guard, which responded heroically to the North Cape disaster, designated Save The Bay as its official volunteer response organization for oil spill disasters – a role we play to this day.

In the aftermath of the North Cape incident, we worked with the Rhode Island General Assembly and Congressional delegation to strengthen laws to prevent such an event from happening again. Rhode Island Senator Charles Fogarty, U.S. Senator John Chafee, and Congressmen Jack Reed and Patrick Kennedy led the charge.

Today, on the 22nd anniversary of the North Cape disaster, the Trump Administration’s rush to open up the Atlantic coast to oil drilling should serve as a wake up call to take action, now, to stop it. Citizen response to the North Cape in 1996 was inspiring. You can help by:
  1. Signing our online petition opposing the President’s reckless plan and letting Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Bureau of Energy Management know that you oppose offshore oil drilling in New England waters.
  2. Joining us and making your voice heard! Show up – signs in hand – at the Bureau of Energy Management's Providence meeting about the proposal. NOTE: This meeting, and our protest, were to take place on Jan. 25; however, the government shutdown has led the BOEM to postpone the meeting. Therefore, we'll reschedule our protest accordingly. 
  3. Supporting the New England Coastal Protection Act. Let your State and U.S. senators and representatives know you support this legislation that would permanently prohibit oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Evolution of a Save The Bay Internship

by Kaitlyn Cedergren, Save The Bay intern-turned-development assistant

During my senior year at Johnson and Wales University, working toward bachelor’s degrees in event planning and foodservice management, I was looking for an internship, but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I stumbled upon Save the Bay’s events internship opportunity and decided to apply. Save The Bay headquarters are located at the very back of the Johnson and Wales Harborside Campus property on the Providence-Cranston line, and despite having lived on campus for the previous three years, the day of my interview was my first day stepping into the Bay Center. I think it was one of the best decisions I could have ever made.

Kaitlyn working the beverage table at Save The Bay's
2017 Artists for the Bay Show Opening Reception.
I began my time at Save The Bay as an events intern, soaking up as much information and taking advantage of as many opportunities as I could. I was also beginning my MBA studies with a concentration in nonprofit business. The timing was great, because not only could I use my major and help coordinate fun events like Taste of the Bay and the Save The Bay Swim, but I was also able to help in other areas of the organization, including volunteering and development. Those experiences, in turn, helped with my school work as I was able to apply real world examples to my in-class learning. I felt like my internship was giving me event experience and future career experience as well.

And in fact, after my four-month internship, I offered a part-time development assistant role, followed by an opportunity to help our Volunteer Manager as well. In my new role at Save The Bay, I do a lot of office work, but I am also able to connect with members, volunteers, and supporters while making thank you calls, while working at volunteer opportunities and events, and at our Bay Center or Aquarium. Making these connections is one of my favorite aspects of the job. Save The Bay’s team and our supporters are full of knowledge. I can say that everyone I have worked with at Save the Bay has taught me something new about the Bay or about the organization and its work. 

I am able to see, each and every day, individuals who want to make a change and use their strengths to do it. We are a small nonprofit with a mission to “protect and improve Narragansett Bay,” and to do this work, so many hands go into helping. The work isn’t just the education team teaching the next generation or the policy team fighting for legislation. It is also the marketing team sharing our messages, the development team cultivating relationship that can last over 40 years, the volunteers who cleanup the beaches and dig creeks in the salt marsh, and so much more.

Kaitlyn (left) with her cousins and mom
at Long Sands Beach in New York in 1997.
I am from a small town in Maine, with a beach within a mile of my backyard. I grew up on the water and I actually have a wave tattoo on my foot, so that I can always walk near the ocean. Every summer growing up, I practically lived on the beach, and I was an avid paddle boarder and kayaker. I was so excited when I moved to Rhode Island to have the water in my backyard once again. Between stressful classes, walking along the Bay has been one of the most relaxing things to do and is now a habit for my roommates and me. Now, coming to work each day and seeing the view of the Bay makes every day great.

Truthfully, walking into Save the Bay on my first day, I could tell you that there was water in the Bay, that it looked pretty, and that I had heard it needed help. Now I am able to share information about the critters that live in the Bay, talk about why the Bay needs protections, and most importantly, explain why Save the Bay does what it does. I am extremely appreciative to have the opportunity to work with an organization that allows me to grow individually and in my career.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Reflecting on Our Members as We Ring in 2018

by Jackie Carlson, membership manager

Ringing in each new year always presents a wonderful chance to reflect back on the past year. For Save The Bay, 2017 was a another strong year of continuing our mission “to protect and restore Narragansett Bay.” We achieved success in initiatives ranging from dune restoration projects and educational program enhancements to continuing to support volunteers in the cleanup of thousands of pounds of trash along our shorelines. Because we’re a member-based organization, none of this work is possible without the support of our members.

Happily, we had the opportunity in 2017 to welcome more than 500 new members to Save The Bay. They joined us through the Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport, the South Coast Center in Westerly and in person at the Bay Center in Providence, as well as through mailings and our website. And in addition to supporting Save The Bay through membership, our members are active in so many roles other throughout the organization— volunteering at cleanups, visiting our Exploration Center, joining us on Seal Tours, sending their children to BayCamp to help educate the next generation and helping spread the word to their own families and friends about the importance and value of being a Save The Bay member.
Save The Bay Membership Manager Jackie
Carlson on a seal tour with her husband, Rob,
and kids Juliette and Matthew - all proud
Save The Bay members.

As a thank you to our members, we are pleased to offer discounts on our seal and lighthouse tours, summer BayCamps, and Save The Bay merchandise. We are also so proud to partner with local businesses who generously offer additional benefits to our members. Our Family Members receive free admission for up to 2 adults and 4 children per visit to our Exploration Center and Aquarium. And all Save The Bay members receive our bi-annual Tides magazine and monthly e-updates. 

As we come to a close on the “Season of Giving,” I would like to thank ALL our members and supporters - from the new members who joined us in 2017 to our most loyal members who have been with us since 1970. Thank you for your continued support! As we look ahead to 2018, we look forward to welcoming more new members and continuing to work with our loyal members. Together, we can Save The Bay! Thank you!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Falling for the Bay: Central Falls students discover their role in the watershed

by Elizabeth Droge-Young, Ph.D., communications intern

Local high school students dove into learning about the Bay this June—one of them quite literally. While scanning the beach at Colt State Park for interesting animals to show his classmates, a fully dressed student spotted a horseshoe crab a few yards offshore and enthusiastically pursued it, dry clothing be damned. 

The horseshoe crab-hunter was one of the Central Falls High School students participating in a weeklong educational program with Save The Bay, exploring Bay habitats and human influences on its health. The group visited sites from Lonsdale Marsh in Lincoln down to Easton’s Beach in Newport, where they observed biodiversity, cleaned up trash and put their linguistic skills to the test in a salt marsh-themed rap battle. 

“Our students going out with Save The Bay and actually seeing the concepts they’re reading about gives them a tangible piece to understand environmental science,” says Laura Stanish, Central Falls High School science teacher and partner in Save The Bay’s education program. 

Central Falls High School students
use watershed models to explore their impact on the Bay.
Exploration and hands-on learning in the Central Falls High School camp is part of Save The Bay’s overarching education goal of inspiring future stewards of the Bay, says Bridget Kubis Prescott, director of education. “We see education as the cornerstone of our advocacy goals. We’re working with future decision makers, giving them real-world experiences to help them understand their own backyard.” 

The Central Falls High School campers are part of the 600 students who participate in Save The Bay summer programming and the 15,400 students the organization sees through the calendar year. For some of the students, these programs serve as a first introduction to Narragansett Bay, which educators leverage to show each person’s connection to the Bay and its health. 

Save The Bay works with school administrators and teachers alike to ensure that programming bolsters the school district’s educational goals. For Stanish, this means that in addition to the brief summer camp, Save The Bay provides real world experiences during the school year to illustrate concepts she teaches in her environmental sciences courses during the school year. 

Stanish’s students take multiple trips a month to Lonsdale Marsh to survey vegetation, take water quality measurements, assess human impact, and explore the biodiversity of the area—all neatly dovetailing with learning objectives for the class. In addition to collecting actual data on their nearby marsh, students develop learning modules for local fifth-graders and present their data and educational materials to Save The Bay staff at two conferences a year. 

A canoe trip on the Blackstone River and a boat ride south to Prudence Island teach a final lesson about stewardship: “Our students don’t necessarily think that what they do in Central Falls is going to impact Jamestown or Narragansett down south, but seeing how the waterways all connect makes them more aware of their impact on the world around them,” Stanish says. 

Students examine a horseshoe crab
they caught at Colt State Park.
The relationship with Central Falls High School is a shining example of Save The Bay’s educational goals: “We want to develop full service programs that are integrated into the schools’ curriculum—where the Bay, and by extension the watershed, are natural extensions of their classroom,” says Prescott. 

Funded by a three-year National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration B-WET Grant, it’s also an example of the type of educational opportunities at risk if federal support of STEM and environmental education efforts diminishes.
And how did all of this learning go over with the students? One camper said it was “fun learning about saving the bay.” And for three students in the group, they’ll also carry bragging rights for performing the best salt marsh-themed rap of the year, including their score on a scavenger hunt: 
“It’s muddy, it’s muddy, many almost sunk/Yelling, I’m melting, I’m melting, get me I’m stuck/Let’s go find crabs and we’ll discover, we’ll hunt/Hurry up let’s go and get some mud/Let’s put it on our face and get the 50 points/We just made 100, highest score yet/Yeah let’s just leave it there, there’s still no comp yet.”