RI DEM tracks plastic debris washing ashore in Warwick

Hard plastic objects shaped like pinwheels washed ashore in Warwick, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said Friday, March 9, 2018. (Photo courtesy of The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Managment)

Hard plastic objects shaped like pinwheels washed ashore in Warwick, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said Friday.

After receiving multiple reports about the debris, RI DEM is alerting people in Warwick, as well as other communities along the Providence River and East and West Passages of the Upper Narragansett Bay, that the plastic is not hazardous.

“(It is) not dangerous or contaminated with sewage sludge,” a press release noted, adding that the debris was flushed out of the City of East Providence’s wastewater treatment facility in Riverside during last week’s nor’easter. “It escaped the plant after going through the treatment system’s secondary clarification and disinfection stages. It did not escape directly into the Providence River.”

The organization also noted that “Save The Bay reported substantial amounts of the debris on the north-facing beach of Rocky Point. Other reports indicate debris having been beached at Gaspee Point and Conimicut. East Providence officials have already visited the Gaspee site and have crews arriving tomorrow for cleanup. Save the Bay has been notifying their members to help target cleanup.”

The objects, which DEM said are called “media,” are used to help the wastewater system remove nutrients before the treated water is disinfected and discharged.

“They’re added to aeration tanks to increase the surface area for bacteria to grow. Bacteria help break down raw sewage for subsequent treatment,” according to DEM, which noted that they will continue to investigate and plan to “follow up with the City and its wastewater treatment contractor to identify interim measures that may prevent further release while they work to reduce the root cause of excessive flows. Residents are reminded that the discharge of stormwater and sump pumps into the City’s sanitary sewer are prohibited.”

Call DEM at 401-222-3070 if you see the debris in your area.

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