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					                        The

 Salt Ponds
  Coalition
                        Tidal Page        News of the Rhode Island Salt Ponds
 www.saltpondscoalition.org	   	      Official	Watershed	Council	for	the	Salt	Ponds	 	            					Summer	2008	         	

                                   New Waste Water Regulations in South County
      Nutrient                     A Review of the New Regulations & the Systems You
     Awareness                     Will Hear About
                                                                               degree or another. Excessive nutrients
       Series                      Kate Luce and Mark Bullinger                in the ponds cause algae blooms, which
                                        On January 1, 2008, the Rhode          look bad, smell bad, and in severe cases
                                   Island Department of Environmen-            can cause fish kills. Over time, nutri-
                                   tal Management (D.E.M.) amended             ent pollution can effectively kill a pond.
                                   its rules to establish new standards for    While these new OWTS regulations
                                   on-site wastewater treatment. The sys-      will not solve all of our nutrient prob-
                                   tems formerly known as ISDS (Indi-          lems, they will help prevent the problem
                                   vidual Sewage Disposal Systems) were        from getting worse.
                                   renamed and now sport the moniker                The coastal ponds are wonderful
                                   OWTS, which is an acronym for On-           resources that not only help define the
                                   Site Wastewater Treatment Systems.          character of South County, but also, in
                                   These new rules require that many           fact, are one of the major producers of
                                   OWTS within the region called the           revenue for this region. This revenue is
                                   Critical Resource Area (please see figure   generated through tourism and taxation
                                   A within for a general delineation) be      of coastal properties, as well as through
                                   constructed using denitrifying (denite)     commercial fishing and marinas. Much
                                   technology.                                 of the appeal that draws coastal resi-
                                        This policy adjustment was taken       dents, tourists, and fishermen, to this
                                   as a step towards reducing the flow of      area can be traced back to clean, func-
                                   nutrients (primarily nitrates) into the     tioning pond systems.
                                   coastal salt ponds, all of which are suf-        Well-maintained traditional septic
                                   fering from nitrate contamination to one       Continued on page 4

                                                                             many of these previously un-buildable
In This Issue                      Who’s In Charge?                          lots are receiving approval for OWTS.
                                   Towns, DEM, CRMC, the Courts?
                                                                             We saw one approval for a two bedroom
Message from the President
                                        Alternative septic systems, now house that relied on composting toilets,
New Septic Regulations - an        known as OWTS (On-site Wastewater a denitrifying system for gray water, and
Overview                           Treatment Systems), are becoming much then a water cistern to receive delivered
Who’s In Charge? The darker
                                   more mainstream. In many ways this is water because there wasn’t room for a
side of OWTS                       good for the salt ponds, but a big issue well. This lot is small and is right on
                                   is developing as a consequence of these the edge of the pond and there are many
E.P.A. Award and Congressio-       new systems. In the past, towns often more like it
nal recognition
                                   relied on D.E.M. regulations to control        The problem is D.E.M. is only
Shellfish and eelgrass restora-    the density of homes on small lots in looking at narrow specifics relating to
tion project                       close proximity to the pond shorelines. the engineering of the proposed system
Creature Feature
                                   Since the 1960’s, the space and soil re- and does not look at the overall impact
                                   quirements for a traditional septic sys- the proposed house would have on wa-
Ponderings - The tragedy of        tem rendered many small lots un-build- ter quality from sources such as fertil-
Winnapaug Pond                     able. But now, and at an increasing rate,     Continued on page 3
Message From Our President

                         The summer season is flying by, as it always seems to
                     do. One of the reasons summer goes so fast is because all
                     the activities underway at the Salt Ponds Coalition. Our
                     mission is always expanding and our dedicated Board of
                                                                                     Salt Ponds Coalition
                     Directors is scrambling to keep up. We need volunteers to
                                                                                     The Salt Ponds Coalition stands up for the
                     help out on our projects.                                       health and sustainable use of the south-
                                                                                     ern Rhode Island salt ponds. SPC is the
                                                                                     only organization whose sole charter is to
                           We are underway with our shellfish and eelgrass resto-    monitor and protect these unique resources.
                      ration. Over four hundred bushels of quahaugs were plant-
ed in Quonnie Pond and over 300 bushels went into Ninigret. We thank the 50
or so volunteers who “got down and dirty” planting clams! The pictures posted        www.saltpondscoalition.org
on our website can give you an appreciation of volume of that project. The eel-
grass test plots have been planted, and lots of volunteers will be needed to help            (401) 322-3068
plant the actual eelgrass beds early in the fall. Watch our website for details.                 Email
      On the advocacy front, we have joined with the Charlestown Waste Water           info@saltpondscoalition.org
Commission and our partners at Save the Bay to make citizens aware of the need             Mailing address
for proper sewage treatment. Despite the completion of in-depth watershed res-                 PO Box 875
toration research, an extensive and detailed report by the environmental engineers       Charlestown, RI 02813
Horsley-Witten Group, and numerous public informational meetings, there are
                                                                                         Board of Directors
still citizens and some public officials who do not understand the need for proper
                                                                                                 Art Ganz
septic treatment to reverse water degradation in the salt ponds. Countless hours
                                                                                                  President
have been spent by Executive Director Mark Bullinger and other Board mem-
                                                                                            Edward Callender
bers to get that message out and prevent some poorly planned projects from set-               Vice President &
ting bad precedents. We are keeping abreast of several shoreline developments               Chair Environmental
including a subdivision south of Route 1 and a drainage system into Winnapaug                    Committee
Pond. Along with our partners at The Nature Conservancy and Save the Bay, we                    George Hill
are tracking the proposed dredging of Quonnie Breachway.                                          Treasurer
                                                                                               Nancy Zabel
    Out salt pond water testing is underway. We have all of the stations in Point                Secretary
Judith Pond finally covered. Ted Callender has developed a “grading system” for                David Bailey
pond health. He will be presenting that at the Annual Meeting in August.                       Sarah Dodd
                                                                                               Barbara Engel
     On the fun and education side, we had a great kayak trip on Ninigret Pond
                                                                                                  Jack Frost
and continue to have well attended Safaris. Be sure to join us at our first wine
tasting fund raiser at the Weekapaug Golf Club on August 6th.                                   Sharon Frost
                                                                                                Martha Hosp
    Our membership goal this year is to increase awareness of our programs and                 Kallie Jurgens
gain members from the eastern end of the watershed – especially around Point                   William Lester
Judith and Potter Ponds. Mark and our intern, Kate, are working hard to contact
                                                                                                 Leo Mainelli
neighborhood groups and homeowners who would like to become members of
SPC.                                                                                             Dick Sartor

                                                                                            Executive Director
    In closing, it continues to be great working with such a dedicated Board of
                                                                                              Mark Bullinger
Directors and generous volunteers.
                                                                                          Tidal Page Editorial,
                                                                                         Layout and Cover Art
                                     Art Ganz, President                                     Mark Bullinger



The Tidal             Page            Summer 2008                                                                  Page 2
SPC Honored with EPA Merrit Award in Ceremony at Faneuil Hall in
Boston

                                             Top: Mark Bullinger (center), Execu-
    Salt Ponds Coalition (SPC) was re-       tive Director of Salt Ponds Coalition
cently honored with an Environmental         accepting the Merit Award on behalf
                                             of SPC from Margherita Pryor and Ira
Merit Award from the U.S. Environ-           Leighton of the EPA.
mental Protection Agency (E. P. A.), in a    Below: The great hall in Faneuil Hall
ceremony at Faneuil Hall in Boston. The      during the awards presentation.
E.P.A. Environmental Merit Awards are        Bottom right: The award plaque
among the highest honors the E.P.A. can      Bottom left: Certificate of Special
bestow to recognize environmental ac-        Congressional Recognition, from
                                             Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
complishments. SPC Executive Direc-
tor Mark Bullinger accepted the award
on behalf of the coalition. Charlestown
Town Councilwoman Kate Waterman,
who nominated the group, was also in
attendance at the event. Congratula-
tions to all of our volunteers who work
so hard! Following is the text of the
press release issued by the E.P.A..

    Rhode Islanders Receive Earth            ened by human
Day Honors with Prestigious Regional         waste, increased
E.P.A. Environmental Award                   bacteria and rising
                                             nutrient levels that
    Given out by E.P.A. since 1970,          can lead to shellfish
the merit awards honor individuals and       beds closing, in-
groups who have shown particular inge-       creased algae blooms,
nuity and commitment in their efforts to     unpleasant      smells
preserve the region’s environment. This      and in some cases                                        the death of fish,
year’s competition drew 77 nominations       all of which hurts the                                   tourism and fisheries of the
from across New England.                     region. Twenty years                         of data collected by the Salt Ponds Co-
     The salt ponds of Rhode Island are a    alition has demonstrated the kind of pollution facing the ponds. But the coalition’s
national treasure sitting at the very bot-   volunteer work sampling and analyzing the pond, educating the public and working
tom of the food chain. They are critically   to preserve the ponds has also begun to turn the tides. Through direct mail, presen-
important to Atlantic wildlife and Rhode     tations, press, web sites and special events like the safari program for kids, the Salt
Island’s economy. But the nine coastal       Ponds Coalition has helped educate the public about human impacts on the ponds.
salt ponds on the state’s south shore        The coalition has also opposed potentially damaging development. The great success
are under assault from the pressures of      of the coalition has meant more members and more grant money working for the
extensive development. They are threat-      health of Rhode Island’s ponds.
Who’s in Charge (continued from page 1)      ninety-thousand to one-million plus,             We believe this is a major issue that
izer, dog waste, parked cars, boat main-     the applicants have incentive to spend a     is going to get worse as even more ad-
tenance etc. And the challenge is, when      lot of money on engineering and legal        vanced systems come on the market.
a town tries to control development          experts to testify on their behalf. Unfor-   SPC plans to work with its partners to
based upon environmental concerns,           tunately, “experts” can be hired who will    help find ways to strengthen the ability
the courts have often said “D.E.M. is        support inappropriate projects. Towns        of towns to enforce their zoning laws,
the environmental expert and they have       are also struggling with the “taking” is-    and to encourage D.E.M. to look at the
given their approval,” and find in favor     sue and are more exposed to law suites       broader impact of proposed dwellings.
of the applicant                             when they try to block a project D.E.M.      Otherwise, we may see much higher
     When the value of a lot may go from     has issued a permit for.                     density along our salt pond shores.

Page                                                                    The Tidal        Page           Summer 2008
Waste Water              continued
                                             the leach fields in a septic system within     a functioning septic system unless you
systems do a good job treating bacteria      the CRA will also require removal of the       undertake certain types of alterations to
and pathogens, but do little to remove       old system and replacement with a new          your house. For systems installed with
nutrients, which eventually leach into       denite system. The general logic behind        state approval on or after April 9, 1968,
the groundwater and move towards the         the D.E.M. rules are to catch systems at       the existing OWTS is suitable and no
salt ponds. Because of existing high         a transition point and move them into          application to the Department is nec-
nutrient levels, the consequences of         the new standard of performance.               essary for any building construction,
on-going nutrient contamination, and              Most systems will not require re-         renovation or change in use, that does
ever-increasing utilization of the coastal   placement for many years. As long as           not result in an increase in the number
areas, we believe D.E.M. has taken an        an existing system continues to function       of bedrooms in a residential structure
important and responsible step towards       properly, and modifications to the house       beyond the number in the original state
restoring and ensuring the water quality     don’t rise to the level that requires an ex-   approval; or an increase in the waste-
we all expect to see in our coastal ponds    pansion of the leach fields, the current       water flow greater than the approved
and along the beaches.                       system can be used indefinitely.               design flow; or unless the footprint of
                                                                                            a proposed addition encroaches on re-
Part I. Summary                              Part II. Misinformation                        quired setbacks from the existing sys-
     The new regulations are unknown             This past spring, the new OWTS             tem. If your system was installed before
to many and confusing to many others. regulations were the basis of much de-                April 9, 1968, or did not have state ap-
They are intended to begin the transition bate within Charlestown politics. It’s            proval, modest construction on your
to a new level of technology. One such hard to tell whether the ruckus was over             home could trigger the need to file for
transition took place in the sixties and genuine concerns, or simply election-              D.E.M. review of your system. Section
seventies as traditional cesspools were year fear mongering, but regardless of the          17.4.2 in the D.E.M. wastewater rule
replaced with modern traditional sep- intent, there was a tremendous amount                 book goes into detail.
tic systems. Now, new installations as of misinformation directed towards the                  Q: Do denitrifying systems cost
well as major repairs will require denite public. To help place this issue in con-          more to install than traditional systems?
systems. In a nutshell, the regulations text and perspective, perhaps reviewing
look something like this: New con- the issue would be in order. The follow-                     A: Yes. Denite systems generally do
struction in the CRA will require a de- ing Q&A is made up of questions com-                cost more. In a very general example, a
nite system designed by a qualified level monly heard, with answers from SPC’s              traditional system might cost twenty-
III certified designer. Failed systems in perspective unless otherwise noted.               thousand dollars whereas a denite sys-
the CRA will also need to be replaced                                                       tem might cost thirty-thousand.
                                                 Q: Am I going to be forced to re-
with a denite system. Additions to an place my operational septic system?                       Q: Will this regulation have an im-
existing structure, in ways that require                                                    pact on my property value?
modifications to the leach fields (such          A: You will not be forced to replace
                                                                                                A; Some opponents to this regula-
as adding a 4th bedroom
to a house with a system
rated for three bedrooms)
                                Critical Resource Area (CRA) of
will require a whole new        the south coast of Rhode Island
system. Modifications to          The Critical Resource Area (CRA)
                                  was drawn along the contour line
a structure that involves         from which point surface water runs
greater than 50% increase         towards the salt ponds.
in footprint of the struc-
ture will require the in-
stallation of a new denite
system. Replacement of
cesspools (which is man-
dated by Charlestown)
within the CRA will need
to be done with denite                                                                                                  Fig. A
systems. The failure of


The Tidal              Page            Summer 2008                                                                      Page 
tion have speculated that the prospect            Q: Why not breach Green Hill                   receives wastewater from a house and
of higher OWTS costs will drive down           Pond and flush out the contaminants?              traps the solids. Its function is to sepa-
property values. It seems much more                 A: Green Hill Pond is one of the             rate solids from liquids. A layer of sludge
likely that fouled water in the salt ponds     hardest problems to solve. Pollution lev-         settles at the bottom of the tank while a
where ugly mats of smelly algae is the         els are high, housing density is high, and        layer of scum collects at the top. A two
norm, would have a more significant ef-        the flushing action of the pond is low            chambered tank allows for the settling
fect. Additionally, a real estate agent in-    due to the relatively small-bore opening          of solids to be more complete due to less
terviewed, commented “One of the first         from eastern Ninigret Pond, which has             turbulence in the second chamber. This
things prospective real estate buyers in       pollution problems of its own. A per-             results in cleaner water leaving the tank
our area ask is what kind of septic system     manent breach seems out of the question           into the leach field. When wastewater
is in the ground.” He added that the of-       given issues such as flooding, siltation,         enters the tank the system is designed so
fer price on houses with old systems and       habitat change, zoning, and bisection             that only liquid waste will exit through
cesspools will significantly lower.            of the beach and access road. Several             the outlet pipe to the leach field. The
   Q: Wouldn’t municipal sewer sys-            seasonal breaches might be beneficial,            look of the leach field can vary, but most
tems be more effective?                        however. On Cape Cod and the Islands,             common are PVC pipes that are placed
                                               seasonal breaches are regularly employed          in stone trenches. The field is buried
      A: Sewers have an advantage in                                                             one to three feet below the surface of
that they can take 100% of the nutrients       to help manage pollution. Such breach-
                                               es are typically open for ten days and oc-        the ground.
away from the critical resource and treat                                                             When the wastewater seeps out of
them in a facility that is staffed by full-    cur perhaps three
time professionals. The problem is the         time per year.                       (Fig. B) A typical conventional system consists
cost of region-wide sewers is astronomi-       Seasonal breach-                     of three main components. A functional system
                                                                                    controls bacteria, but does little to treat nutrients
cal. Many areas in the South County            ing needs study,
CRA are fairly low density, so the cost        but does not ne-                    Septic       Distribution
per residence would be much higher             gate the need to                    tank         box          Drainfield

than in higher density areas. Addition-        put less pollution
ally, in many areas effluent would have to     into the ground.
be piped long distances to other munici-
palities for treatment. That being said, in    Part III.
some areas it might make sense. Great          Follow the
Island and Harbor Island in Narragan-          Flush
                                               or Know Your OWTS                                 the pipes, it enters into the surrounding
sett are two examples. Both have high
density development on very sensitive               With all the hubbub and debate               native soil. The soil below the leach field
locations and the town of Narragansett         over cost and regulations, what exactly is        helps to treat bacteria before it enters the
has existing sewer lines in fairly close       a denitrifying septic system? While we            ground water. While bacteria are treated
proximity to these locations. In some          are on the subject, what is a traditional         by the soil, nutrients can still get into the
of the more remote areas, smaller re-          system? Most of us don’t really think             ground water which can then affect our
gional systems might play an important         about what happens to the water after             ponds. That is where denitrifying sys-
part in moving forward. Such systems           we wash a sink full of dishes or flush            tems comes into play.
could collect waste water from defined         a toilet. As long as our systems work             Denite Systems
neighborhoods in close proximity to the        we often don’t really give them much                  There are many kinds of denitrify-
ponds and move it to a fairly local mini       thought. Let’s take a minute to look at           ing septic systems, however, the most
treatment facility that’s a bit further back   the systems that are available to us and          common in RI are the AdvanTex system
from the water. Such pooled systems            break down the cost of both traditional           and the FAST system.
could be higher performance and would          and denitrifying wastewater treatment                 The AdvanTex system, which is pic-
be monitored more closely than individ-        systems.                                          tured in Fig. C, accounts for the majority
ual systems. Regardless, the switch to              There are many different kinds of            of the denite systems installed in RI to
higher performing OWTS technology              traditional systems; however, they most           date. It works by circulating the liquid
across the greater CRA makes sense.            always have two main components. The              waste water through a highly absorbent
                                               first part is the septic tank. The tank           material which filters the suspended sol-


Page                                                                 The Tidal                 Page               Summer 2008
                                                         ids and also plays host to bacteria   field. Often, in this area, that is a bot-
                                                         colonies which consume much           tomless sand filter. This leach field de-
                                                         of the problem compounds. The         sign has a four sided frame, usually made
                                                         AdvanTex system does not use a        out of wood, and is open to the native
                                                         blower fan so it is quieter than      soils at the bottom. In most cases, there
                                                         the FAST system and uses less         is gravel around the distribution pipes,
                                                         electricity - probably three to six   which can not be covered with land-
                                                         dollars per month. Once the           scaping or structure. The gravel needs
                                                         wastewater has traveled through       to breath freely to allow oxygen into the
                                                         the filtration system several         sand filter media where additional bac-
                                                         times, it is sent to the infiltra-    terial action further reduces the nitrate
                                                         tion component in timed spray         level. Below the clean gravel is about
                                                         bursts, which are regulated by        two feet of sand. Stretched out on top
                                                         the system’s control panel..          of the sand, but under the gravel is a net-
                                                              A FAST design (Fig. D)           work of plastic pipes and spray nozzles.
                                                         usually has a two chamber sep-        The wastewater is released under pres-
                                                         tic tank with an above ground         sure in time-released bursts so the sand
                                                         blower that forces air into the       filter is not overloaded during peak us-
                                                         system. The air pressure from the     age. The first two feet of sand tend to be
                                                         fan forces wastewater up a tube       the most bacterially active zone, where
                                                         within the tank, where it is de-      most of the nitrate reduction takes place.
                                                         flected back down over the filter     Therefore, the systems are usually elevat-
                                                         media. The honeycombed media          ed above grade so that more air can get
                                                         is covered with a film which sup-     into that zone.
Top: (Fig. C) Detail of a AdvanTex sys-          ports the growth of beneficial bacteria.           Another type of dispersal system is
tem which is the most common denite
                                                 The circulating air also provides an oxy-     called a shallow narrow pressurized drain
design used in RI.
                                                 gen-rich environment where the bacteria       field. It is under ground, but again the
Above: (Fig. D) Detail of a FAST system thrive and consume much of the prob-                   network of pipes is close to the surface
which utilizes a blower fan.                     lem nitrates before they are released into    so clear effluent exits into a bacterially
Below: (Fig. E) Cross section of a bot-          the ground. The filter also reduces the       active zone. Often, vegetation is planted
tomless sand filter, which is often used         particulate discharge which helps lower       over the field so the roots can take up
as the final dispersal zone for either of        nitrate output. As mentioned above,           a significant amount of nutrients. If an
the above systems.                               the FAST system utilizes a blower unit        applicant has a large lot, they might also
                                                                             which might       be permitted to use a standard leaching
                Typical Bottomless Sand Filter                               be disturbing     field, but that seems to be an exception.
    Wood frame                         Crushed stone surface                 depending on           With either system, by the time the
                                                                             the proximity     water leaves the dispersal area, its nitro-
                     Dispersion pipes       Spray nozzles                    of the fan to     gen content should be reduced by 50%
                                                                             living areas.     or more.
                                                      0
                                                                             The fan also           All of the advanced wastewater sys-
                                                                             uses       more   tems require maintenance every one to
                                     Bacterially active
                                           zone                              electricity and   two years and service contracts are usu-
                  24”                                                        might       add   ally required by the terms of the system
                                  Sand                                       $20+ to the       approval. The homeowner is respon-
                                                                             monthly elec-     sible for hiring a maintenance company
                                                                             tric bill.        which in turn is responsible for filing in-
                                                                                  Another      spection/service reports to D.E.M.. This
                               Native Soil                                   component to      is to ensure the systems are maintained,
                                                                             a OWTS is         because if they are not, the filters get old,
                                                                             the dispersal     parts break, and the systems no longer


The Tidal               Page             Summer 2008                                                                         Page 
offer any benefit. Often, the systems
are linked to the service provider via the     Glossary of Terms Often Used in the Discus-
phone line, so if the water level gets too     sion of Wastewater       Nitrates: The form of nutrient that causes
high in the filtration chamber, or pumps                                                       most of the problems in saltwater systems.
                                              Cesspool: Basically a hole in the ground         In freshwater, phosphates are bad.
or blowers malfunction, an alarm sounds       lined with or surounded by stone. Wastewa-
and the maintenance staff can react re-       ter flows in and filters out through surround-   D.E.M. Department of Environmental
gardless of whether the premises is oc-       ing soil. most date from ‘50’s or earlier.       Management - the state agency that reviews
                                                                                               OWTS applications.
cupied. Almost all of the infrastructure      ISDS: Individual Sewage Disposal System
is located outside of the house.              is the formarly common term used for de-         Sewers: Generally used to describe a mu-
     A traditional system requires regu-      scribing a home system.                          nicipal system in which wastewater is col-
                                                                                               lected via pipes under the street and con-
lar maintenance as well. Systems that         OWTS: On-site Wastewater Treatment               veyed to a central treatment facility.
are not properly maintained can have          System. The latest acronyme for describing
devastating effects on the environment        individual systems. The key difference is the    Grey water: waste water from everything
                                              word “treatment” vs. “disposal.”                 other than toilet flushes.
as well as the wallet. It is important to
have all septic systems maintained and        Denite: Shortened name for de nitrifying,        Bacteria: Generally used to describe the
septic tanks pumped every three to five       which is the process of reducing the nutrient    bacteria or other pathogens contained in
years to prevent systems from backing         content of efluent.                              sewage that can make people sick.
up into the house or yard.
     One way to maintain the life of your    tank is the same regardless of whether            permit from D.E.M..
wastewater system is to pay attention of     the system is traditional or denitrifying.             Work can commence once the per-
what is going into your tank. Only toilet         Regular maintenance fees for the             mit is issued, and the homeowner has
paper can be handled in any septic sys-      denites vary depending on what needs              five years from the date of issue to com-
tem. Also, decrease the amount of wa-        to be done with each visit. A routine             plete the work. If the approved design is
ter used in the house by spreading out       visit with everything functioning nor-            not installed within five years, the permit
chores such as laundry over the week         mally, costs between $75- $150.                   expires and they will need to file a new
and encourage short showers with low-                                                          application under the rules that exist at
flow shower heads. Protect the leach         Installing Denite Systems                         that time. If there is an emergency situ-
field by not putting anything heavy over          The process is lengthy when install-         ation, such as a cracked pipe, the hom-
the field such as storage sheds or moving    ing any on-site wastewater treatment              eowners have a year to complete work.
or parked vehicles. Avoid planting trees     system, but working out the details helps              Now that the work can begin the
within the leach field area, as the roots    ensure the system will be effective and           engineer brings in contractors to in-
can damage the pipes.                        will provide may years of service. The            stall the system. D.E.M. requires that
     The cost of building a conventional     first step is a soil evaluation, where the        the engineer witness the installation as
or a denitrifying septic system depends      height of the water table as well as the          it proceeds. An engineer must visit the
on lot size, design, the number of bed-      type of soil is analyzed. This process is         site at least three times during the pro-
rooms., and in this area, how many boul-     completed by an engineer and witnessed            cess to confirm that installation is done
ders they find during excavation. The        by D.E.M.. At this point, the engineer            properly. D.E.M. also visits the work
more bedrooms in a single-family home,       (who is hired by the property owner)              site to preform an inspection.
the larger the tank and treatment capac-     determines what type of system best fits               A properly installed and maintained
                                                                                                                                   100
                                                                                               denitrifying septic system will be a ben-
ity required. A four bedroom tradition-      the dwelling and the characteristics of
al system might cost between $15,000         the lot. Once the evaluation and design           efit to the homeowner, community and
and $25,000, and require a tank pump         work is completed, the engineer submits           wildlife for many years and for many
every three to five years. A similarly       an OWTS design to D.E.M. It can take              reasons. These reason include improved
sized denite system might be $20,000         between four to six weeks for an applica-         home resale; the satisfaction of helping
to $30,000 plus an annual operations         tion to be processed by D.E.M. Once               to conserve and protect the salt ponds;
agreement.                                   the design is approved, the engineer              and potentially longer system life since
     When the “honey dipper” comes           brings the design to the homeowner for            the filters help to keep solids from get-
to pump the septic tank it usually costs     their approval. After the homeowner is            ting into the fields, which is one of the
between $150 - $200, depending on the        satisfied with the design the home own-           major reason traditional systems fail.
size of the tank. The cost to pump the       er/engineer team must secure the final


Page                                                               The Tidal                  Page            Summer 2008
                                                  Phytoplankton                              quantities of a toxin, which becomes
                                                  By Art Ganz                                concentrated to dangerous amounts dur-
                                                                                             ing a huge bloom of the species, causing
                                                                                             illness such as PSP (paralytic shellfish
                                                                                             poisoning). Gymnodynium red-tides oc-
                                                                                             cur in southern Gulf coast waters and
                                                                                             Gonyolax problems occur north of Cape
                                                                                             Cod and in the waters of Maine and
                                                                                             Canada. The difficult issue with these
                                                                                             species is that they occur naturally in the
                                                                                             phytoplankton population, but rarely in
                                                                                             sufficient concentrations to cause harm.
                                                                                             For over 30 years the state D.E.M. has
                                                                                             tested for the presence and concentra-
                                                                                             tion of Gonyolax Brevis during its rou-
                                                                                             tine water monitoring.
                                                                                                        Maintaining a healthy balance
      At the bottom of the food chain          diately result in a phytoplankton bloom,      of phytoplankton in the salt pond eco-
are the microscopic plants known col-          over population and eventual die-off.         system is crucial for the ponds’ survival.
lectively as phytoplankton. They are the       Oxygen necessary for their respiration        Too much causes dissolved oxygen prob-
basis for all pond life. There are thou-       and their eventual decomposition can          lems along with unsightly conditions;
sands of species of these plants and still     be quickly used up leading to hypoxia         too little isn’t good either. In addition to
others that haven’t even been named yet.       (dangerously low levels) or anoxia (lack      managing nutrient contamination, the
These microorganisms are made up of            of oxygen) in the water.                      maintenance and restoration of shellfish
single cells, multiple cells, or colonies of        Herbivorous fish & filter-feeding        stocks is an important step. SPC ‘s re-
cells of various sizes. They float in the      shellfish feed on large quantities of phy-    cent shellfish transplants are helpful, and
water column and travel at the will of         toplankton. Oysters, for example, can         the limited expansion of aquaculture op-
wind and currents. Many, but not all, of       filter from 30 to 50 gallons of nutrient-     erations growing oysters is also benefi-
these plants contain chlorophyll, which        ladened water per day, removing and           cial in terms of maintaining a balance.
produces oxygen by day and respires it         consuming the phytoplankton and relat-
at night. The pigmentation varies with         ed nutrients. Please view the YouTube          Abby Aukerman Scholorship
species. The brown pigmented species           video at the following link, for a strik-
are most common in late fall, winter, and      ing time-lapsed video showing the vis-        SPC is a regular contributor to the Abby
early spring. As the weather warms and         ible effect over the course of a half hour.   Aukerman scholorship, which helps
days get longer, the Browns are replaced       (http://youtube.com/watch?v=1Zm-              support a deserving undergrad in the
by the red species, and eventually by the      yMpHsaQ ) This is yet another reason          marine studies field at URI. This year,
                                                                                             Megan Shearer received support, and,
green and blue/green species. Water            to maintain healthy shellfish beds in the     as it turns out, she is working part time
color and turbidity are largely affected       ponds.                                        with Watershed Watch and analyzes
by the density and pigment of the phy-              It is the abundant phytoplankton         some of our samples! If you would like
toplankton.                                    that draws menhaden and other herring         to contribute to the scholorship fund,
     Nutrients such as nitrogen and            species into the ponds. Most species of       please use the membership form on the
                                                                                             back of this newsletter and note that
phosphorous compounds (phosphates,             juvenile and larval fish will feed on phy-    your gift is for the scholorship.
nitrates and nitrites) are taken up by         toplankton. Of course, the carnivorous
these microscopic plants. Their popula-        fish eat the herbivores, and up the food
                                                                                              International Coastal
tions can soar in response to high con-        chain it goes!
                                                                                              Cleanup Day - Sept. 20th
centrations of these nutrients. This is             A word about red-tide. Actual red-
referred to as a bloom. The plant life re-     tide events are not common in this area.      SPC will once again participate in the
sponds quickly to this. Blooms are often       The species most often responsible for        International Coastal Cleanup day.
                                                                                             The location we coordinate is the state
visible to the naked eye. A heavy rain         toxic red-tide events are Gymnodynium         boat launch area along the Quonnie
laden with nutrients from runoff from          sp. and Gonyolax sp. The danger of red-       breachway. We will be there between
lawns and failed septic systems imme-          tide is that both species contain minute      8:30am and noon. Please join us.

The Tidal              Page              Summer 2008                                                                       Page 8
Shellfish Restoration With The Nature Conservancy & Save The Bay
     This past spring Ninigret and Quonochontaug Ponds re-
ceived a large supply of quahaugs to supplement the native
populations, thanks to a grand effort of volunteers and our
partners. On May 8, Ninigret Pond was stocked and Quonnie
was stocked on May 20. Each pond received 330 bushels of
adult brood stock. This truly was a unified effort of The Nature
Conservancy, Save the Bay, Salt Ponds Coalition, Rhode Island
Shellfishermen’s Association, D.E.M., students from Chariho
& Narragansett and lots of volunteers. We are also grateful
Lavin’s Landing Marina and Ocean House Marina for their
support.
     Shellfish restoration programs are not new to the ponds.
Back in the 1970’s, our own Art Ganz, who was then with
D.E.M., was in-                                                                             Above:Art Ganz (right) and his SPC hearties size up
strumental in set-                                                                          the job. Offloading 90,000 clams is a bit of work.
ting up spawner                                                                             Left: Volunteers form a clam brigade and pass fifty-
sanctuaries     and                                                                         pound bags of quhaugs forward, where they were
                                                                                            slid down a plank to the waiting boats.
conducting regu-
lar plantings with                                                                          Lower left: Volunteers at Fort Getty park in James-
                                                                                            town separate and bundle eelgrass shoots in prepar-
quahaugs, scallops                                                                          tation for transplant into the ponds.
& oysters. The
results included a                                                                          Below: Caroly Shumway of The Nature Conservan-
                                                                                            cy dumps a bag of clams overboard in one of the
50% increase in                                                                             Ninigret Pond sites.
quahaug popula-
tion density in
Quonnie (Ganz et.
al. 1981). Stock-
ing of the spawner sanctuaries, however,
occurs only when funding is available.
     Last year the partnership of The Na-
ture Conservancy, Save the Bay and Salt
Ponds Coalition received a NOAA grant
to restore eelgrass & quahaugs to the two
ponds and study the symbiotic relation-
ship of the two. The three groups have
worked incredibly well together, with
each providing their respective talents.
The decision was made to piggy-back
with the state’s annual transplant pro-
gram, so the program went forward with the invaluable help               The overall con-
of Dennis Erkans of D.E.M.. The shellfish were first tested         cept being tested is a
for contamination & (shellfish) disease, and after approvals were   theory that planting
received from the Department of Health, 330 bushels per pond        filter-feeding shell-
were loaded on a D.E.M. truck and escorted (after all, that’s a     fish and eelgrass together will produce better results than
lot of clams) to the theater of operations. Thirty or more vol-     planting either separately. Shellfish filter water, eelgrass likes
unteers off-loaded the shellfish into boats donated by SPC and      clear water, and clam larvae like the protection eelgrass pro-
other members of the cooperating partners. In slightly less than    vides. Each pond has thee plots: one of clams alone, one of
two hours at each pond, the quahaugs were happily burrowing         eelgrass alone, and one of the two planted together. The sites
into the bottom of the salt ponds.                                  will be monitored for several years to access levels of success.

Page                                                           The Tidal              Page                 Summer 2008
        Ponderings                      Personal reflections about life on the salt ponds.

The Tragedy of Winnapaug Pond                 arated the smaller ones to one side and       pond now,” said Parzych, who returned a
Mark Bullinger                                the big ones (three to four feet and some     few moments later with a handful of golf
                                              as big around as a Coke bottle) into an-      balls. “I got four-dozen the last time I
     Back in the day, Winnapaug Pond          other chamber. The small ones were sold       went out. The old dip nets are still good
(also known as Brightman’s Pond) was a        as bass bait, and the big ones remained       for something.”
vibrant resource for the people who lived     in the pound until December, at which              Jack Barber became a regular pres-
on its shores and the creatures that lived    time a Jewish market would buy them           ence on the pond shortly after Hurricane
in its waters. That has all changed. To       for sale during the holidays. “When I         Carol back in ’54. “We’d find beat up
illustrate the difference, I spoke with two   talk about this stuff, it was abundant,”      refrigerators and stoves, cars, and house-
individuals who spent many a year in and      added Parzych, “you didn’t have to hunt       hold items from the places that were
upon Winnapaug waters. The highlights         around for it.”                               smashed up along Atlantic Avenue.”
of these discussions are retold below.             Wally started to notice a decline in          “Back in those days, there were huge
     Wally Parzych Jr. grew up on the         the pond in the eighties, but departed        areas of eelgrass. Below the Weekapaug
shore of Winnapaug Pond and is the            not long there after for another chapter      golf course was all eelgrass and west of
son of a fisherman. All through the late      in his life. Now, Wally lives on the edge     Watermelon Island (which now has a
sixties and seventies, Wally would spend      of the pond again, in an old family cot-      shack on it) all the way to the end of the
hours each day on the water, helping his      tage, and kayaks on the pond every week-      pond was eelgrass which was full of life.
father, or messing around on his own.         end. “It’s just totally changed since those   If you had a mask on you could swim
“We pretty much survived in those years       days. There used to be all this eelgrass      along and part the grass and find scallops
off what we caught in the pond and what       out there, but now the bottom is just bar-    and big eels and lots of Blue Crabs.”
we grew in the garden,” Parzych said.         ren. I’ve seen one empty blue crab shell           “We used to go up to Chickadee
“There were all kinds of things available     in the past year.”                            Farms and get a bunch of chicken necks
in that pond.” Some of the species that            “I think the number of houses around     to catch crabs. We’d tie twelve along a
young Parzych caught included flounder,       the pond have quadrupled since I was a        length of line and stretch it out along the
mackerel, hard & soft shell clams, scal-      kid and it just seems like runoff from the    bottom and let it soak for ten minuets or
lops, blue crabs, shad, and eels – big eels   yards and the septics has poisoned the        so. Then we’d pull it up and we’d have big
and lots of them. “We had about sixty eel     ponds while boat traffic chewed up more       crabs on practically every neck.”
traps down below the golf club and we’d       and more eelgrass. Once the vegetation             “We’d get all kinds of clams in there
pull them every morning.” Wally’s father      disappears, the rest is not far behind.”      - hard shell, steamers, razor clams as well
had fashioned a eel pound and they sep-            “I’ll show you what I get out of the     as scallops by the bushel and big eels.



                          Special Outings                                                           Click This
Save The Bay Exploration Center                                                                     www.uri.edu/ce/wq/
Newport, RI                                                                                          OWT/index.htm
     Here’s a fun marine education outing for a
rainy day during the summer. Our partners at                                                Here’s a useful site for help understand-
Save The Bay operate this interactive center with                                           ing more about wastewater systems.
fourteen tanks and 150 local marine creatures on                                            Includes detail on various systems and
display. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day                                                 a listing of service providers who have
                                                                                            completed URI’s advanced training.
the center is open every day from 10:00am until
4:00pm.
     This is a great place to see marine life that populates the bay and our coastal             www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/
waters, including such creatures as striped bass, bluefish, flounder, scup, tautog, a          regs/regs/water/owts08.pdf
wide variety of crabs, lobsters, jellyfish, eels, horseshoe crabs, and much more. The
center is located at Easton’s Beach. Admission is $4 (kids under three are free), but       This is a link to the DEM wastewater
if you show this newsletter, you can save $1 per ticket on up to four admissions.           regulations that went into effect 1/1/08.

The Tidal              Page             Summer 2008                                                                      Page 10
We used to ice fish for eels by cutting       water and deplete oxygen within the wa-
holes in the ice and jabbing forked spears    ter which is detrimental to eelgrass and
into the mud. As kids we’d float along        oxygen sensitive creatures such as crabs.
                                                                                                         Events
in a flat-bottomed skiff with a view box      As both men relate, there are many more         Salt Pond Safaris
and scoop or spear the things we wanted       houses along the shores, and housing                The Salt Pond Safari series begins
– scallops in the fall and fish or eels all   density just seems to corollate with nutri-     on Saturday May 17th, at 10:00am in
the time. Once I speared a five and one-      ent pollution on all the salt ponds. There      Ninigret Park. We meet at the Grassy
                                                                                              Point parking area and make the short
half pound fluke right inside the pond.”      are also two golf courses along the pond        walk to the pond along a crushed
     Barber says the eelgrass started to      and although they follow better practices       stone path. Participants help pull our
diminish in the 70’s, but it was the mid      today, who knows what kind of fertilizers       forty-foot seine net to the beach and
                                                                                              then collect the creatures we catch for
80’s to mid 90’s when it really went down     and herbicides washed off into the pond         closer observation. Our educator, Jane
hill fast. “When I was a kid, there were      in the past. Siltation has cut down on          Whyte, has hosted thousands of school
one-third the number of homes there are       the flushing of the pond, which exac-           kids on field trips and does a wonder-
                                                                                              ful job leading the outings. The safaris
now.”                                         erbates the nutrient problems, and also         are great for kids and adults alike and
     “As conditions deteriorated, the blue    allows the pond temperatures to reach           are held on the third Saturday of each
crabs and scallops disappeared and for a      close to 80-degrees in the summer – far         month through October.
while green crabs filled in behind them.      warmer than these ecosystems evolved to         Wine Tasting Fund-Raiser
But now they are gone, too. D.E.M.            operate within.                                     On August 6th from 5:30 to
seeded the pond with scallops for a while          Winnapaug Pond is an example of            7:30pm, SPC will host a wine and
                                                                                              beer tasting fund raiser at the Weeka-
in the late 80’s and we had a few good        what will happen to a pond if danger            paug Golf Club. Experts will be on
years, but with no eelgrass for cover, they   signs are ignored. It once thrived, but         hand to present a large variety of wines
didn’t last. These days. It looks like the    today is host to a limited number of spe-       and micro brew beers. Don’t miss out
                                                                                              on this fun event - space is very lim-
surface of the moon. You still see baby       cies which can’t find a foothold to thrive.     ited. Tickets are $45 per person and
flounder up there, but the bass come in       And don’t think that a fallow flat will at      include delicious hors d’oeuvres. To
looking for eels and crabs and when they      least provide a pleasant view for the litto-    reserve your place, please send a check
                                                                                              to Martha Hosp, 29 Lincoln Road,
can’t find much else, they slurp up the       ral residents around the pond. Aquacul-         Charlestown, RI 02813.
baby flatfish.”                               ture is a growing industry in Rhode Is-
     So what happened to turn this            land and leases are licensed for plots that     Fall Kayak Trip
aquatic meadow into a moonscape? The          don’t have a native population of shellfish         Join us Sept. 27th on a guided kay-
                                                                                              ak trip on eastern Point Judith Pond.
largest factor is likely nutrient pollution   or eelgrass. Many folks around Winna-           These were a very popular activity in
from fertilizer runoff and ground water       paug Pond now look out at a collection          2007, but unfortunately our spring
contamination by cess pools and sep-          of wire pounds which are not very attrac-       trip this year met with lightning and
                                                                                              fog and had to be postponed several
tic tanks. Excessive nutrients cloud the      tive at low tide.                               times.
                                                                                                  Typically we have experts paddle
                                                                                              along and talk on topics of interest.
                                                                                              These might include marine sciences,
 Interesting Reading                                                                          fisheries, birding, local history, geol-
                                                                                              ogy, water testing and more. The pace
                                                                                              is relaxed, but there are plenty of op-
Fly Fishing for Striped Bass                                                                  portunities for stronger paddlers to go
Rich Murphy, Wild River Press, 2007                                                           ahead and meet up at the next speak-
                                                                                              ing point.
This is perhaps the nicest book yet published on fishing                                          We rendezvous at Marina Park,
for Striped Bass. Rich Murphy is an illuminati of sorts in                                    across Route 1 from South County
the salty fly world and has a reputation for designing first                                  Hospital, at 8:30am and shove off at
                                                                                              9:00. No fee or registration required.
rate flys for striper fishing. One look at this book and
you can tell it has been many years in the making and
a labor of love. The level of details and graphic quality                                Sight-Fishing for Striped Bass
are far above most other books on the subject and it’s                                  Alan Caolo, 2001
clear that this fisherman of renown was matched up                                     This is another useful book written by local resi-
with layout and publishing talents of similar magnitude. If you                       dent and widely respected angler Alan Caolo.
want to learn the art of catching bass on the fly, this book should        The book contains lots of information that is useful for flats
be on your lap.                                                            fishing right here in the ponds and along our area beaches.


Page 11                                                            The Tidal                 Page          Summer 2008
Salt Ponds Coalition
PO Box 875
Charlestown, RI 02813




                          Please Help Us Help the Ponds
      If you haven’t renewed your membership for 2008 yet, please use this
     form. If you have, please get a friend or neighbor to become a member
          An	SPC	membership	for	                        With	your	membership,	                    Donations	are	tax	deduct-
          the	2008	season	helps	fund	                   you	will	receive	four	issues	             ible	and	can	help	reduce	
          protection	of	the	ponds.			                   of	the	Tidal	Page.                        the	tax	you	owe.
                                                                                                                                 Salt Ponds
                          Please	make	checks	payable	to	Salt	Ponds	Coalition.		Memberships	run	from	Janurary	through	December	   Coalition
Please	enroll	the	individual/family	at	right	at	     Name:
the	following	membership	level                                                                                                    P.O.	Box	875
                                                     Permanent Address                                                           Charlestown,	RI
     $40+ Standard 2008 Membership                                                                                                   02813
     $75+ Select Level                               Town                                         State                 Zip
         (Includes SPC hat)
                                                     Summer Address
     $250+ Steward Level
         (Includes SPC hat)                          Town                                         State                 Zip
     $1,000+ Lifetime Membership
         (Includes all of the above plus our         Email                                                                           We
         eternal gratitude)                                                                                                       appreciate
                                                     Phone
                                                                                                                                     your
                                                                                                                                  continued
Please	consider	a	gift	to	the	SPC.		Your	                    Please	find	enclosed	my	gift	of	$_____________                        generous
donations	to	our	501(c)(3)	organization		
are	tax	deductible.                                          I	would	like	to	sponsor	a	testing	station	for	$600                    support!

The
Tidal Page                                                                        News of the Rhode Island Salt Ponds

				
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