URI volunteers look to restore Green Hill Pond
KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 23, 2002 -- Charlestown resident Lynn Fairweather remembers when Green Hill Pond was bursting with so many clams she nearly tripped over them. "We used to take our children here every summer, but then my children started getting sick from the clams, " she said. "Two years later the pond was closed for clamming. It was a sad sight to see."
Rather than accepting the ponds fate, she joined with Ralph Minopoli, coordinator of the Salt Pond Coalition, to do something about it. Now working with the URI Watershed Watch program, a volunteer-based water quality monitoring program, they have been testing the ponds waters for almost ten years.
Fairweather, a retired church finance director, is responsible for two testing sites that have high bacteria levels. One of these sites, Teal Road, is at the northeast corner of the pond where several streams feed into it from South Kingstown. Fairweather spends two to three hours a week testing these sites. "I do it because Im concerned about the pond and want people to be able to use it," she said.
Minopoli, a retired pharmacist and Charlestown resident, spends from two to four hours a week testing four sites (two on Green Hill Pond and two on Ninigret Pond). He believes the data collected through this program will lead to better decisions about how to combat pollution. "I am interested in the health and welfare of the pond, and I want to see it improved upon," Minopoli said.
Both volunteers have altered their living habits in order to cut down on the amount of pollution they create. They conserve water by washing their cars less frequently, use water from dehumidifiers to water plants, purchase energy efficient washing machines, and cut down on the amount of time they spend in the shower. "Our efforts are helpful," said Fairweather, "but there are a large number of tourists in this area who dont realize how theyre contributing to pollution."
The URI Watershed Watch program is in its 15th year of monitoring approximately 120 water bodies in the state. The program began as an effort to combat a lack of knowledge about water quality in Rhode Islands lakes and ponds. It now has close to 300 volunteers and 30 sponsoring organizations. "The places we monitor tend to be active public usage areas or areas where there is visible decline in water quality," according to Linda Green, Watershed Watch program director.
The monitoring season begins in late April and ends in early November. At the end of each monitoring season, a report is compiled for the volunteers and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. This report is used to assess whether the states water bodies are meeting the standards set by the state.
Watershed Watch helps to create citizen scientists that have a personal interest in the work they are doing. "The program allows us to track problems, document high water quality, and assess possible solutions," said Green. "Without the help of volunteers this would not be possible."
Green Hill pond is in its second year of data collection by the Watershed Watch Program. "Preliminary results confirm high levels of bacterial contamination in several areas which will have to be addressed prior to the area being re-opened for shellfishing," said Elizabeth Herron, Watershed Watch program coordinator.
One step being taken to help improve water quality at the pond is a new ordinance in South Kingstown that requires septic systems to be pumped out regularly. "We are really pleased with the towns efforts to reduce potential contamination to the pond through its pumping ordinance, but caution it is likely to take several years of monitoring before any long-term improvements can be expected to be seen. But this is a great start," said Herron.
Those interested in becoming Watershed Watch volunteers at this site or any other site should contact Green at 874-2905 or Herron at 874-4552.
For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892, Nicole Duguay 874-2116