“Right now we are in the midst of a low-oxygen event more severe and widespread than the one that spawned the famous 2003 fish kill in Greenwich Bay,” reported Save The Bay Baykeeper Tom Kutcher in the Providence Journal yesterday. “No dead fish yet, but we’ve been seeing dead blue crabs around Prudence Island.”
I’ve been seeing dead blue crabs here in my neck of Narragansett Bay, too. Picture to follow. But dangerously high levels of pollutants in Naragansett Bay is a state-wide crisis.
Beach closures, as RI Future previously reported, have been alarmingly high this year. They’ve happened as far south as Narragansett Town Beach and three East Bay beaches were closed yesterday.
“Obviously this is an indication that something is not right with our water,” said Dara Chadwick, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, the state agency that monitors water quality for human safety. DoH maintains an interactive map of beach closures. It also has an overview page for beach health concerns.
When it rains all the toxic chemicals we put on our lawns, on our roads and into our old septic systems drain into the Bay. This causes plants to overproduce and fish to die. When fish die, two of the Ocean State’s most important economic sectors are severely hampered: commercial fishing and tourism/recreation.
Here’s how Kutcher put it in his ProJo piece:
In areas surrounding the Bay, we have innumerable streets, driveways and parking lots. During all weather, these surfaces collect pet waste, fluids dripping from our cars and chemicals running off our lawns. During a rainstorm, this all runs directly into the water at your local beach; that is, unless your town has adopted a storm-water-management strategy, such as tearing up pavement and replacing it with soil and plants that clean the water before percolating toward the Bay. But this probably isn’t the case.
Earlier this week I reached out to Meg Kerr, a local environmental scientist and president of the Environmental Council of Rhode Island, about this very same issue. She is organizing a conference call with other experts to speak to the issues.
Save The Bay has successfully saved The Bay from the detrimental effects of industrialization, but now Save The Bay needs to save The Bay from the equally detrimental effects of suburban sprawl.