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Bacteria Levels Down By Half In Upper Narragansett Bay

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Upper Narragansett Bay is cleaner than it used to be. That’s according to the latest data from the Narragansett Bay Commission.

Upper Narragansett Bay is cleaner than it used to be. That’s according to the latest data from the Narragansett Bay Commission.

The Narragansett Bay Commission collects 29,000 water samples each year to analyze water quality.

Since 2008, bacteria levels in the upper bay and its rivers are down by more than 50 percent, according to Pamela Reitsma, one of the agency’s scientists. She attributes that sharp reduction to the agency’s multimillion-dollar water quality project designed to overhaul its old sewer system.

Reitsma said some conditional areas for shell fishing no longer close after an inch of rain as a result of this improvement.

“These conditional areas supply 45 percent to 50 percent of the quahog harvest per year in Narragansett Bay, which can equal $2.5 million in revenue for our shell fishermen in the bay," said Reitsma.

Reitsma said more work needs to be done with cities and towns to address ongoing contamination from runoff with such chemicals as lawn fertilizers.

“There is still a lot of bacterial contamination from sources like storm water," said Reistma. "And that’s the next large focus of the water quality community is to start focusing on those storm water impacts.”

Levels are also down for nitrogen and heavy metals as a result of other agency initiatives to address algal blooms from excess nutrients and to regulate heavy metals from industry. 

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Bacteria Levels Down By Half In Upper Narragansett Bay
Bacteria Levels Down By Half In Upper Narragansett Bay