Friends of Green Hill Pond on a mission to save pond from effects of pollution


Mar 24, 2017 Updated Mar 24, 2017

SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Friends of Green Hill Pond is on a mission to save the 430-acre body of water, and has requested $25,000 in matching funds from the Town of South Kingstown to conduct a study aimed at improving circulation in the polluted pond.

“Green Hill Pond is dying,” said Dennis Bowman, a member of the group, during last week’s town council meeting. “This is not a matter for debate—Salt Pond Coalition, DEM, CRMC all validate that—it’s only a matter of pace that it’s dying.”

Green Hill Pond, which lies mostly in South Kingstown and partly in Charlestown, boasts a densely populated shoreline.

Due to high levels of pollution, the pond was closed to shellfishing nearly 30 years ago.

“Before that time, Green Hill Pond was a very large oyster resource and supported a very nice fishery,” explained Art Ganz, president of the Salt Pond Coalition. “Of course, that’s all been lost.”

In addition to having lost the pond as a fishing resource, Bowman added there are several other reasons residents should be concerned by the sad condition of the pond—among them, property values.

“If we have a dead pond that stinks and turns into a mudflat,” he said, “property values will go down.”

Other areas of concern, Bowman added, include wildlife restoration and preservation of recreational activities, such as kayaking.

The Friends of Green Hill Pond has met with several state officials, including Senator Dennis Algiere, in an effort to obtain state funding for the study.

The $25,000 requested of the town would be matched by state funds.

The group's ultimate goal is to improve water circulation within the salt water pond, Bowman explained, adding that the study would be necessary for determining the best course of action for doing so.

“So we can get ahead of the curve in terms of the pollution that’s there,” he added.

The Salt Pond Coalition received a grant about 10 years ago from the Environmental Protection Agency to address pollution in Green Hill Pond. Research was conducted by Providence-based environmental engineering firm Horsley Witten Group.

“As a result of the Horsley Witten project, we identified the major source of pollution in Green Hill Pond was primarily from improper handling of wastewater,” Ganz explained. “The secondary problem is road run-off finding its way into the pond, and to a smaller degree animal waste—these are all the key problems that are affecting the water quality of Green Hill.”

“What needs to happen to make Green Hill Pond fishable and swimmable,” he continued, “is, essentially, to stop this contamination coming into the pond—that’s the real big nut to crack.”

In its report, one option recommended by the Horsley Witten Group for an interim fix would be to construct a temporary breach way—that would involve digging a 20-foot wide, 40-foot deep trench, which would eventually fill back in.

“The idea is that, either you continue doing that once, twice, three times a year,” Bowman said, “or you move on and try to construct a permanent breach way to permanently flush it—but that’s way down the road.”

Another option for flushing the pond would be to dredge under the Creek Bridge.

The process of bringing the pond back to life will be a multi-phase one. The phase-one study that would be paid for in part by the $25,000 in town funds would determine the exact impacts of each of those options.

In Charlestown, Ganz explained, several steps have been taken to prevent pollution in Green Hill Pond, including updating septic systems and removing cesspools.

And although South Kingstown is beginning to take steps toward addressing pollution in the pond, he added, there’s more that should be done.

“[South Kingstown] has got the braintrust of professional people that do this kind of stuff,” he said. “You’ve got URI people, you’ve got some real talented people on the planning board—just incredible resources.”

The South Kingstown Town Council discussed during a work session last week the possibility of including the requested $25,000 in the upcoming budget, opting instead to wait, and possibly use funds from its capital reserve account.

Meanwhile, Bowman and Ganz agree that the cause is an important one.

“It adds a certain dimension to quality of life that I think is unmatched anywhere in the state,” Bowman said. “We have a precious salt pond and we should value it.”