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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 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 , 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.
mohamed j. freij June 29, 2011 at 06:04 PM
I do not live in Middletown but I live in Barrington and I go to second beach frequently...your town does not need more studies and more money wasted on enginneering studies just some basic common sense will go along way...for example every time I drive to second beach I notice people walking their dogs right on the edge of the drinking water supply reservoir! how is this make sense? it is not just farm animals but dogs are a big source of pollution...but no body wants to hear it because they have a dog....no you cannot pick up dog urine and diaria. good luck.
mohamed j. freij June 29, 2011 at 06:30 PM
Actually I will go on to give your town a solution for this problem for free since I love that beach and it is there for all of us! as a professional engineer and land surveyor in the state of RI for over 28 years....your consulting firm is saying in the report above more studies are needed! do you think they need more business? my answer is simple...all direct storm water discharge leading to third beach must be intercepted and treated....treatment method could be very simple and natural..it does not have to cost millions and it does not need to come as a conclusion of a $300,000 engineering study. Solution: allow all direct discharge to drain in detention basins before overflowing into the beach. try it and your polution numbers will go down within a week.
Kaiser Soze June 29, 2011 at 07:54 PM
The drinking water that everyone walks their dogs and allows them to deficate in is the city of Newport's property

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