The Block Island Times

GSP Committee to begin education plan this summer

Boat-to-boat talks, other events slated to help keep pond clean
By Stephanie Turaj | Feb 23, 2013
Source: File photo

The Committee for the Great Salt Pond will begin rolling out community education efforts this summer as the group also continues to work with town officials to limit contaminants from entering the pond.

These efforts will begin unrolling within the next few months and tie into a three-year plan the group is calling its Clean Water Protection (CWP) plan.

CGSP Secretary Jane Musky said that the group is also working with the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), to learn how to best control pollution entering the pond.

To start with, the Committee (CGSP) is compiling a book that documents “buffers” around the Great Salt Pond, meaning material such as vegetation that helps block contaminants entering the pond. The book will illustrate where there is such vegetation growing, and also indicate areas that have flat asphalt, which allows runoff to easily enter the pond.

“The pond is fed by tributaries, little streams,” said Musky. “We are betting most people don’t even know they live near one of these feeders. We’re trying to be proactive and come up with solutions to give people and help them control their runoff.”

The group will begin education programs — such as a summertime boat-to-boat talk in the harbor, and to organized tours of the pond — in order to raise awareness about keeping the water, and the island, clean. The CGSP will also launch a fundraising campaign, starting with a letter handed out at the boat-to-boat education talks this summer.

“Our hope is for people to start to understand that we are about protecting the pond,” said CGSP President Sven Risom. He referenced the revenue the town earns from the marinas, shellfishing licenses and mooring located in New Harbor.

Risom also noted that there are other research efforts in the works for the pond’s health. “We are working with other groups, and trying to understand what is the flushing structure of the pond. If you were to dump heavy dye and light dye [into the pond], what happens,” Risom said.

Within the past six months, there have been three town sewer spills, all of which closed the pond to shellfishing. Water and shellfish tests after at least two of the spills indicated some contamination in the water or in the shellfish. After the first of these spills, which occurred last August, the CGSP called a meeting and invited all parties interested in the pond — from the sewer commission to local fishing groups — to discuss the policies, procedures and protocols needed when a sewer spill occurs.

Risom commended the performance of the current Sewer Superintendent, Chris Blane, whom Risom said has been taking the right proactive steps in managing and preventing spills.

But the CGSP wants to keep things going in the right direction, and has asked town officials that a protocol be developed to close the pond not only to shellfishing after a spill, but to swimming and other similar activities.

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