Town Orders Third Beach Pollution Study
A week after Third Beach closed for two days due to unhealthy bacteria levels, the Town Council has ordered an assessment of the Maidford River and Paradise Brook watershed area that feeds into the cove to look for the pollution sources.
The Town of Middletown has ordered an environmental study of the watershed area encompassing the Maidford River and Paradise Brook in hopes of identifying the main sources of upstream pollutants that led to last week’s closure of Third Beach.
The Town Council on Monday night authorized Town Administrator Shawn Brown’s request to extend the $32,200 assessment contract to Woodward and Curran, the consulting firm already working with the town for ongoing storm water studies and remediation projects to reduce the pollutants entering Easton’s Bay at Atlantic Beach.
The state Department of Health last week recommended the closure of Third Beach in Middletown for swimming after water sample results showed high bacteria levels. The beach remained closed June 14-16, according to the DOH website.
At the meeting Monday night, Brown and Town Engineer Warren Hall also informed the Town Council that the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is working this month to set Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits for bacteria levels that will impact the town’s beaches, as well as its developing long-term storm water management plan.
“The state is working to determine that threshold. Once it’s determined, the town can look at the upstream waterways to figure out what needs to be done to protect our waterways and prevent Third Beach closures,” Brown said.
Given the town’s ongoing engineering projects and efforts to prevent the unhealthy storm water pollutants from entering Easton’s Bay at Atlantic Beach — the result of legal action brought by state and federal regulatory agencies — Brown and Hall agreed that it would be in the town’s best interest to begin the Third Beach watershed assessment immediately, knowing that the new DEM limits are coming.
“The smartest thing we can do is be proactive,” Brown said. “We need to be at the table (with DEM) and be a part of those discussions.”
As part of the contract awarded Monday night, representatives of the firm Woodward and Curran also will participate on behalf of the town in discussions with the DEM, according to Brown’s memo submitted to the council.
The study is expected to begin immediately this week with a final report to be completed by mid-August, the memo stated.
Both Brown and Hall also described the assessment as part of the town’s overall long-term storm water management plan, which currently also involves a major public works project on Easton’s Point near The Esplanade.
In 2010, Third Beach closed twice due to unhealthy bacteria counts in the water, while Atlantic Beach closed six times, according to the state DOH website.
While Atlantic Beach closures have been fairly predictable following heavy rains due to the current configuration of storm water outlets, Brown and Hall on Monday night described how the Third Beach problem is less predictable and in need of further study. Upstream farm animal waste and lawn fertilizers are seen as the common likely culprits, but further complicating the issue are Newport Water’s control of water into the drinking water reservoir on Sachuest Point and the tidal patterns in the cove at Third Beach, which often flow south to north in a circular pattern, they noted.
For More Information
- Middletown beach statuses may change on a daily basis. For additional information about swimming at Rhode Island beaches, visit www.health.ri.gov or call the Beach Hotline (401) 222-2751.
- More information about the Third Beach environmental assessment is available to view in the PDF document in the image gallery at upper right.