Friday, July 16, 2010
I got a troubling call from a member in the Chepiwanoxet neighborhood of Greenwich Bay today reporting foul odors, pea-green water, blue crabs crawling out at the water's edge, and lots of silverside minnows a few feet off the shore- still alive but massed just below the surface.
These same conditions- Rainy weather followed by a heat wave and weak winds and tides- conspired to create the massive fish kill of 2003 in the same area of the Bay. In that event, more than a million fish died- mostly juvenile menhaden.
We are still at a relatively early point in the season to be seeing this kind of algae bloom, water temps above 80, and low dissolved oxygen in the shallows as well as the dredged channels. The lack of menhaden this summer may be the reason we have not seen fish kills yet- silversides are hardier and may withstand these kinds of events.
We also are responding to numerous calls and complaints of algae and hydrogen sulfide odors in the Gaspee, Conimicut, Narragansett Terrace, and Edgewood neighborhoods.
The stinky, green water is nutrient polluted, but is not a hazard to swimmers or a problem for shellfish. Since the 2003 fish kill, Save The Bay has advocated successfully for upgrades at wastewater treatment plants to limit nitrogen- a major culprit in algae blooms. However, as the present conditions in Greenwich Bay illustrate, we have a long way to go to make it clean and healthy.