Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Impacts of Flooding on the Bay

Already today, we have seen the storm of the century on Narragansett Bay. Storm estimates approach 8 inches of rain, smashing records eveywhere in Rhode Island.

While the immediate priorities are to keep people safe and to protect homes and businesses, what kind of impacts does this have on the Bay?

For one thing, millions and millions of gallons of untreated sewage are pouring into the rivers as I write this. That means that the flood waters in the street may be contaminated by sewage. Wastewater treatment plants around the Bay and rivers are overwhelmed. I just heard that the Warwick treatment plant is closed and may be underwater before it's over.

Also, we are watching the developing situation around Easton's Beach in Newport carefully. The earthen dam that forms the 'moat' is under serious strain and it's possible that it may fail in the next few hours.

The sewer overflows and bacteria contamination will certainly close much of the Bay and coast to shellfishing and swimming temporarily. We would expect those effects to last a couple of weeks, more or less, depending on the weather. Within a few weeks, we do expect the water to be clean and safe again.

Lots of trash will wind up on the shores. Come join one of Save The Bay's many cleanups to help with that.

Erosion on South County's coast will be severe. Habitat restoration in the ponds, on the dunes, and forested or marshy buffers are our best natural defense. Nothing can defend against a storm like this, though, so we'll just have to wait and see.

In many ways, a big rain and flood is good for the Bay. It flushes out the river systems, pushing out debris, making new channels, beaches, and sandbars as it demolishes the old ones. In the end, the Bay will be better for it.

In the meantime, stay dry, and stay tuned. -JT


  1. Anonymous3:32 PM

    Some of Jamestown's sewers are backing up also. Narragansett Ave in particular. Water(?) spraying out of manhole covers

  2. John:

    is it likely that that earthen wall at eastons could fail? Is that the one that surrounds the reservation there?

  3. Gary- So far so good. I have not heard any news on the Moat, so that's probably good. It's the one behind the Atlantic Beach Club, Flo's, Easton's Beach, etc.

    We may know more in the AM. JT

  4. Anonymous10:23 PM

    My brother lives in Richmond, I have family in other parts of RI, near Newport, and also in Mass.--I am in Kansas, where can I get updates?

  5. Hi, for breaking news, I suggest

    http://www.630wpro.com/ which is WPRO radio's site

    or www.projo.com , which is the Providence Journal's site. JT

  6. Also, for continuing TV coverage, check:


  7. Anonymous3:41 PM

    John: what about dinghy sailing in the upper bay? Obviously there are current health risks, but when can my high school team start sailing again? Thanks!

  8. Hi- People were actually sailing and rowing out there today- I don't think it's a good idea for a number of reasons- pollution, crazy currents, submerged debris... We saw a few big timbers and pieces of docks go by the Save The Bay offices today.

    I'd think you might be OK to sail by this weekend. However- I'd strongly advise that you require proper protective clothing including wetsuit, foul weather gear, waterproof gloves and boots. Also take care not to drink from water bottles that have touched spray or bilge water. Stay safe! JT

  9. Anonymous10:31 AM

    WRNI, Rhode Island's NPR affiliate, has extensive coverage of the flood and its aftermath at 1290 am and 102.7 fm and on its web site at WRNI.org

  10. Yes, WRNI has done an awesome job with this story, and I am a proud member. Thanks for your comment. JT