Monday, June 19, 2006

Huge Win on Nutrient Pollution!!!

Today, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) announced a landmark agreement to reduce nitrogen loads from the two major wastewater treatment facilities that serve the Providence area. The Field's Point and Bucklin Point plants are now slated to begin construction of facilities that will reduce nutrient loads to the Bay from these plants by more than half.

This is something we pushed hard for over several years, and it's time to congratulate DEM and the NBC as well as all the people who helped make this possible. Nutrient pollution is still the most significant threat to the health and stability of Narragansett Bay's ecosystem. While today's agreement goes a long way toward addressing the problem, too much nitrogen is still flowing into the Bay from upstream sources (This means you, Worcester, Woonsocket, and East Providence, to name a few!). We also need to make sure we're monitoring to measure the effects of these improvements. JT

Read Save The Bay's news release on this historic agreement below:

Save The Bay welcomes nitrogen reduction agreement between NBC and DEM

Providence, RI – Save The Bay today praised the Narragansett Bay Commission and RI Department of Environmental Management’s agreement to dramatically reduce nitrogen discharges to Narragansett Bay from the Fields Point and Bucklin Point facilities.

In response to ground-breaking legislation passed in 2004, DEM first issued the draft permits in June of 2005. NBC’s agreement to reduce nitrogen discharges to 5mg/liter, once the new technology is installed and operating will lead to dramatic improvements in water quality for Narragansett Bay.

“While we will be reviewing the details of the agreement, we are enthusiastic about the agreement’s broad framework,” said Save The Bay Executive Director Curt Spalding. “This can indeed mark a great victory for the Bay and the many people who have worked hard to relieve the Bay of excess nitrogen loading.”

Spalding praised the bold first step and leadership of NBC in reaching this agreement. Their example should provide the impetus for other dischargers in East Providence, Woonsocket and upstream in Massachusetts to take similar steps. Save The Bay will continue to work to secure those nitrogen reductions as well, he said.

“This announcement is very timely,” Spalding continued. “It highlights the importance of two pieces of legislation pending at the RI General Assembly right now: A request for funds to monitor the conditions in Narragansett Bay and the $25 million Clean Water Bond that is necessary to provide capacity for the Clean Water Financing Agency to fund projects just like these.”

Save The Bay actively advocated for nitrogen reduction, even before the “wake-up call” of the 2003 fish and clam kill. The organization warned of the threat to the Bay weeks before the monumental event and has since led the effort to reduce nitrogen discharge by municipal wastewater treatment facilities.

“We cannot fully celebrate this victory without the General Assembly approving funding for Bay monitoring. We need benchmarks before the upgraded Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) system is online and in advance of nitrogen reduction at Fields Point and Bucklin Point. We cannot judge the performance of these two important improvements without monitoring Bay conditions. Similarly, financing of these and other water improvement projects hinges on passage of the Clean Water Bond. Save The Bay urges the Assembly to do the right thing.”

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