Decades of Pollution Killing Newport Pond

By ecoRI News staff

Almy Pond in Newport, R.I., is nearly 50 acres in size and residential homes are the primary land use in the pond’s watershed. (City of Newport)

Almy Pond in Newport, R.I., is nearly 50 acres in size and residential homes are the primary land use in the pond’s watershed. (City of Newport)

NEWPORT, R.I. — State officials have told the city that it needs to better address pollution at Almy Pond, where aquatic life is virtually extinct. In a 2007 Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) study that looked at nine ponds, from Barrington to Warwick, Almy Pond was found to have the most severe nutrient impairment.

The pond’s pollution problem has been ongoing for decades. There are 13 identified storm drains discharging into Almy Pond, its tributary or hydrologically connected wetlands, according to the 173-page report. Stormwater enters the pond untreated.

The major sources of phosphorus to Almy Pond are stormwater, waterfowl waste, biogeochemical cycles and wastewater, according to DEM.

“The extremely elevated phosphorus concentrations found in Almy Pond do not appear to be consistent with the surrounding land use nor does the waterfowl population utilizing the pond appear to be entirely responsible for the phosphorus impairment,” according to the report. “Thus the possibility that wastewater is a significant source cannot be discounted. Specifically, there is a concern that sewage may be leaking out of force mains located on Alpond Drive and Murray Place or that there may be failing septic systems along the eastern and northern shores.”

Robert Schultz, deputy director for engineering for Newport’s Department of Utilities, recently told Newport This Week that there is an excess amount of algae in the pond, saying that “If we don’t take action, it will just get worse.”

He noted that the oxygen levels is so low that fish and other aquatic life can’t survive.

To address the problem, the city is expected to begin testing possible infrastructure pollution sources in the pond’s watershed this spring. To fund this work, the city received a $250,000 Narragansett Bay Watershed Restoration Fund Grant last year from DEM. The city provided $250,000 in matching funds. The grant period runs through January 2018.