Our West/Rhode River report card shows that our grade for 2017 is a D+, down from a C the year before. Why? As we started our data collection in the spring, the water was remarkably clear. But then in July, we had storms that dumped 8 – 10” of rain, two to three times the normal amount, and another 5 – 8” of rain in August, double the norm.
During this rainy period, the quality of the water was just as bad as you’d expect: murky, clouded with algae and low in oxygen; yet, when September came along with below normal rainfall, the rivers quickly cleared up, showing that our waterways are resilient. The rivers actually work pretty well when they’re not overloaded with stormwater flooding them with sediment, nutrients and pollutants.
The lesson learned from this past year is that we need to work even harder to treat stormwater runoff before it pollutes the water. We need to double down on enforcing sediment controls on construction sites – an ever greater necessity with a building boom about to burst on the Mayo peninsula. We need to create more stormwater treatment projects like the one we’re about to build in the waterfront park of the Holly Hill Harbor community in the upper reaches of Bear Neck Creek. And we need to encourage homeowners to adopt practices that treat stormwater on their own properties.
Storms are going to be coming more often and with greater intensity, so we need to work hard now to prepare.
We are part of the Mid-Atlantic Tributary Coalition (MTAC). To see the assessment methods we used, see MTAC’s Sampling and Data Analysis Protocols.