Thursday, December 21, 2017

What's going down in Charlestown?

by David Prescott, South County Coastkeeper

Last year, the town of Charlestown was the proud recipient of a multi-year grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Working in partnership with us here at Save The Bay, plus the University of Rhode Island and the Salt Ponds Coalition, the town of Charlestown will use the funding from this Coastal Watershed Restoration Grant for the “implementation of a series of methods to obtain quantifiable reduction and mitigation of nutrient impacts to groundwater and surface water bodies located within Charlestown’s South Shore Salt Ponds Watershed of Green Hill, Ninigret, and Quonochontaug Ponds.”

So…. what exactly are we trying to do with this grant? Well, several things. The town of Charlestown will be upgrading 15 substandard conventional septic systems with newer systems that utilize nitrogen-reducing technology, to reduce the amount of nitrogen going into the salt ponds. The University of Rhode Island will be sampling 50 existing nitrogen-reducing on-site wastewater treatment systems over a three year period and using the results to optimize this technology. The Salt Ponds Coalition will set up two new sampling stations in the highly impacted Green Hill Pond area to analyze and track nutrient impacts. And Save The Bay will be installing six rain gardens within the study area to promote stormwater infiltration and serve as public demonstration projects.
Students planting rain garden at Hamilton Elementary School
Hamilton Elementary School students plant a rain garden
in the school playground with Save The Bay. 

Over the past decade, Save The Bay has been actively working with local municipalities, community organizations, and schools to design and install rain gardens as a way to teach the public about their benefits to our local water bodies – and of course, to reduce polluted runoff. Rain gardens are shallow, planted depressions that soak up 30% more water than traditional grass, absorbing rainwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces, and keeping it from running into the road and down storm drains. For more information on rain gardens, including great web links, check out page 11 of our recent publication, Bay-Friendly Living: Yard care and lifestyle tips to save time, money and the Bay.

Rain Garden illustration

For the Charlestown project, this past fall, Save The Bay and Charlestown town staff surveyed and ranked several town properties this past fall for possible rain garden locations. The first two rain gardens will be planted this spring. In addition, Bay-Friendly Living will be distributed to homeowners within the study area of this grant.

We’re looking forward to working over the next couple of years with our partners on this Watershed Restoration Grant. Partnerships are so important when trying to tackle complex historic water quality issues within the watershed. Stay tuned for further updates!