Innovation Ecosystem

Wish you were here

A postcard from Save The Bay headquarters at Fields Point, celebrating the opening of a new dock facility to expand public access to Narragansett Bay

Photo by Richard Asinof

Mayor Jorge Elorza, Gov. Gina Raimondo, and Sen. Jack Reed at the ribbon-cutting at the new Save the Bay dock facilities at its Fields Point headquarters,with paddle boarders and kayakers behind them.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 5/27/19
The milestone of the completion of a new dock structure improving public access at Save The Bay’s headquarters at Fields Point created a postcard photo op to celebrate the improved quality of Narragansett Bay.
Will the R.I. General Assembly be willing to spend more money to improve enforcement activities against polluters on Narragansett Bay, without raising fees? When will the R.I. Attorney General move forcibly against industrial polluters to clean up the Providence port? How are waterfront property values along Narragansett Bay declining because of the threats of potential flooding from rising waters and storms as a result of man-made climate change? What are the efforts underway to protect Rhode Island from clean water insecurity?
The enforcement action by R.I. DEM against Sprague Operating Resources regarding the alleged odors caused by its storage of asphalt products at its Allens Avenue facility in Providence is still an evolving story. The suspected culprit in the case of the stink eating the Providence waterfront is what is known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs, an airborne contaminant with both short-term and long-term health effects.
The R.I. DEM complaint makes no mention of PAHs and their potential relationship to the stink. What is unclear is whether or not R.I. DEM is equipped to do monitoring of the airborne contaminant, and if so, whether it did perform such monitoring.
There is a monitoring station set up on Pontiac Avenue in Providence to capture readings of PAHs, which is run under contract by the U.S. EPA for the R.I. Department of Health. The health laboratory at the R.I. Department of Health can perform sophisticated analyses of the content of airborne contaminants, as was revealed when the state agency performed such analyses for state agencies in Massachusetts regarding the permitting of a controversial natural gas compressor facility planned to be built in Weymouth, Mass. The problem was that the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection apparently did not share the results with regulators in a timely fashion.
Here in Rhode Island, ConvergenceRI has asked both the R.I. DEM and the U.S. EPA numerous questions about monitoring capabilities for PAHs, without yet getting a response. Stay tuned.

PROVIDENCE – It was just another manic Monday in Rhode Island for the news media, rushing from staged event to staged event. First, scheduled for 9 a.m., Gov. Gina Raimondo joined with Rhode Island Foundation President Neil Steinberg to announce a round of $2.6 million in new grants to promote prevention activities by six nonprofits in providing mental health and behavioral health services.

Then, it was rushing off to the ribbon cutting to celebrate Save The Bay’s new waterfront public pier at its Fields Point headquarters, scheduled for 10 a.m., which featured Gov. Raimondo, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and representatives from two corporate sponsors. Eric Grady, from REI’s band engagement and impact team, and Jay Allbaugh, senior vice president and regional manager for Cox Communications Northeast.

Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save the Bay, served as emcee.

A phalanx of news media and invited guests crowded onto the small space on what is known as the floating “wave attenuator,” which serves as the public dock and protects Save The Bay’s education vessels and dock from the wear-and-tear of wave action.

In the background, there were a bevy of paddleboarders and kayakers to provide a ready-made photo op for the occasion.

If the theme of the earlier event focused on mental health and behavioral health grants was to promote prevention activities to improve access to affordable care, the ribbon-cutting ceremony had a similar theme of public-public partnership to improve the access to the shoreline of Narragansett Bay.

In his opening remarks, Stone called the event an opportunity to recognize the partners, from the federal and state government and the private sector, whose financial contributions had made the $1.1 million project possible.

Reed praised the educational opportunities available children in Rhode Island. Whitehouse stressed the decades-long effort by Save The Bay to clean up the waters of Narragansett Bay. Cicilline, Raimondo and Elorza touched on similar themes of access, cleaner waters, and the economic importance of Narragansett Bay.

The ceremony made the front page of The Providence Journal, a different kind of postcard. There were no hard questions asked or answered.

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