rhode island department of environmental management

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Fishermen in the Gulf of Maine have been harvesting lobsters at record highs. That’s in contrast to fishermen in Southern New England, where there has been a sharp decline in the lobster population since the late 1990s. 

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Earlier this spring, we brought you a report from our series Battle With The Sea about the impact of climate change on Aquidneck Island's drinking water with warmer temperatures, heavier rains, and more intense storms. But there’s more to the story. We pick up where we left off.

John Bender / RIPR

Over the years, the state has slashed budgets across all government agencies, including the Department of Environmental Management. This agency, tasked with protecting the environment, has seen a decline in staffing. Environmental advocates say these cuts have weakened and slowed enforcing environmental laws and regulations.   

Earlier this year, residents packed a small room at the Statehouse for a hearing about a zoning bill. They complained to lawmakers about industrial pollution from a quarry in Westerly. Residents blame the DEM for poor monitoring and enforcement.

Robin Angliss / NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to continue to monitor daily the three beluga whales exploring Narragansett Bay. Biologists want to make sure they return safely back to their Arctic habitat.

Courtesy of Narragansett Bay Commission

The board of the Narragansett Bay Commission has voted to move forward with the final phase of a water quality project designed to overhaul its old sewer systems. The wastewater agency is struggling with how much it will cost to complete the project, aimed at further improving water quality in Narragansett Bay.

The Narragansett Bay Commission’s third and final phase of a multi-year water quality project will cost about $815 million, if state and federal regulators approve the plan. This final phase could bring the project's total cost to about $1.5 billion.

The project, known as the combined sewer overflow (CSO) project, involves installing a large tunnel that would run through Pawtucket, Central Falls and the northern part of East Providence. The tunnel would stop untreated sewage and stormwater from overflowing into Narragansett Bay during heavy rainstorms.

Rick Payette / Creative Commons License

A farm in Warren is the 100th farm in the state to be permanently protected for farming. This marks a milestone for the state’s farmland protection efforts.

  The state considers Lial Acres in Warren an important farm to protect because of its prime soil and its close proximity to other protected farms. The farm also abuts land protected for drinking water quality by the Bristol County Water Authority.

The Lial family currently operates it as a vegetable farm, though previous family generations ran it as a dairy farm. It has been an active farm for 125 years.

John Bender / RIPR

The state of Rhode Island and a scrap metal recycler have reached an agreement through a court order to address pollution on the Providence waterfront. The state recently sued Rhode Island Recycled Metals for failing to comply with environmental rules. 

  David Chopy, chief of the Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Compliance and Inspection, said the state is concerned that the company doesn’t have enough money to do the required cleanup.

Scott Comings / Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

The Pawcatuck River will have one less dam along its river in the near future. The Nature Conservancy has filed a wetlands permit application in Rhode Island to remove the White Rock Dam beginning this summer.

Ed Hughes / Courtesy of Audubon Society of Rhode Island

Bald eagles aren’t the only bird of prey thriving in Rhode Island. Ospreys are also making a comeback.

The population of ospreys substantially declined from the use of the pesticide DDT after World War II. Rhode Island initiated an osprey monitoring program in 1977 to document the fish-eating raptor’s recovery and breeding success.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received four million comments for its trio of federal rules proposing to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. This is why the EPA will miss a deadline this month to finalize one of those plans. Now the agency will finalize those rules all at once in the mid-summer.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management submitted comments, encouraging the EPA to continue recognizing existing efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Photo Courtesy of Janine Burke

Here’s an effect of climate change you might not have thought of: heavy rains flood wastewater treatment plants. These intense rain storms are one result of warming temperatures. As part of our ongoing series, Battle With The Sea, Rhode Island Public Radio’s environmental reporter Ambar Espinoza has a report from a wastewater treatment plant in Warwick.

The Warwick Sewer Authority is located on the banks of the Pawtuxet River, next to what is called an oxbow, the U-shape curve in a river. The river wants to fill in the land next to the oxbow each time it floods. 

Summer may be gone, but locally grown food still abounds with eight winter farmers’ markets open throughout the state. A year-round local food system continues to grow in the Ocean State, as more and more farmers use greenhouses and other tools to extend the growing seasons.

Farmers’ markets these days sell an array of local offerings, not just produce, said Ken Ayars, the Department of Environmental Management’s agriculture chief.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Rapidly rising sea levels and severe weather threaten every community and natural habitat in the Ocean State, not just along the coast. Through a new ongoing series we’re calling, Battle With The Sea, Rhode Island Public Radio will examine the range and scope of these threats from city to city and town to town, and the solutions to prepare and strengthen Rhode Island for future threats to come.

Photo Courtesy of Steve Dubois

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency reported Copar Quarries in Westerly has paid $80,000 in penalties for violating federal clean air standards. According to EPA officials, the quarry is now in compliance. Not so, say neighbors who live near the quarry. Their lawyer is calling for a new investigation into dust and other concerns associated with the operation.