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DEM Announces November 7th Meeting to Discuss Ways to Restore Water Quality in the Blackstone River

PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, November 7 to discuss recommended strategies for restoring water quality in the Rhode Island portion of the Blackstone River Watershed. The meeting will be held at 4:00 p.m. in the adult programs room at the Woonsocket Harris Public Library, located at 303 Clinton Street.

The Department has drafted a water quality restoration study, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that addresses bacteria and trace metal-related impairments that affect the recreational and aquatic life uses of the Blackstone River, Cherry Brook, and the Mill and Peters Rivers. TMDLs are mandated by the federal Clean Water Act and establish the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards.

DEM utilized data collected by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and by DEM staff and contractors to characterize water quality conditions. Elevated bacteria concentrations were found in all sections of the study waters, with the highest concentrations found in the Mill and Peters Rivers, as well as the upper reaches of Cherry Brook. Exceedances of the State's freshwater metals criteria occurred for cadmium and lead in the Blackstone River, and for copper in Cherry Brook and the Peters River. Common sources of bacteria include stormwater runoff, failed septic systems, and waste from pets, farm animals, and wildlife. Trace metal sources include stormwater, contaminated river sediments, and wastewater treatment facilities. The TMDL document includes the detailed findings of these investigations, as well as actions needed to reduce the discharge of the pollutants of concern and restore water quality.

In order to meet water quality standards during both dry and wet weather conditions, reductions in identified pollutant sources must be accomplished. This TMDL will establish requirements for sources in Rhode Island and state-line allowable concentrations and loads from the Massachusetts portion of the watershed. The primary focus of recommended actions in Rhode Island is enhanced management of stormwater - including both non-structural (operation and maintenance of drainage systems) and structural improvements to reduce runoff volume and pollutant loads. The study also evaluated the need for more stringent pollutant limits for the Woonsocket Wastewater Treatment Facility and found that Woonsocket's current RIPDES permit limits for the pollutants of concern are sufficiently protective. The TMDL recommendations complement existing pollution reduction efforts in the watershed, namely upgrades at the Woonsocket wastewater treatment facility, Phase III of the Narragansett Bay Commission's planned Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) abatement project, and stormwater management plans being implemented by municipalities and industrial sites throughout the watershed. DEM will continue to work with US EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to ensure a watershed-wide approach to restoration of the Blackstone River.

DEM will present the draft TMDL findings and recommended pollution abatement activities, and accept public comment on the TMDL at the November 7th meeting. The TMDL serves as the basis for both voluntary and mandatory pollution abatement activities. Interested parties will have until Friday, December 7, 2012 to provide written comments to DEM. The entire document is available online at: www.dem.ri.gov/programs/benviron/water/quality/rest/pdfs/blackdraft.pdf.

For more information about the public meeting or water quality issues in the Blackstone River, contact Skip Viator at 222-4700 ext. 7608 or via email at skip.viator@dem.ri.gov.

Related links

Department or agency: Department of Environmental Management

Online: http://www.dem.ri.gov/

Release date: 11-02-2012

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