Editorial: Fishing fun trumps safe drinking water

Tiverton figured that at least the state Department of Health would have its back in efforts to boot fishing tourneys off the town reservoir.

Not so.

In one of the most bizarre pronouncements out of a state agency in memory, the DOH has declared that inviting boats with big engines to race around shallow Stafford Pond in pursuit of fish presents no risk to drinking water. That is so, the agency says, because anything bad that spills into the reservoir can be removed by water treatment.

Which begs the question, why is every other reservoir around so fiercely protected?

Frank Raposa, head of the Stone Bridge Fire District which manages the reservoir, said it best.

“Put your boat in North Watuppa Pond (reservoir that serves nearby Massachusetts communities) and you’ll end up in the hoosegow in about 20 minutes.”

Other reservoirs have treatment  plants too but ban boats outright, forbid swimming, and even outlaw hiking and dog walking nearby. Some are protected by fences.

Stafford Pond is actually more vulnerable to trouble than these other well-guarded reservoirs. It is small, so shallow that boats churn up bottom sediment, and the water treatment facility is not the most modern around.

People deserve to expect that their health departments will always err on the side of caution — whether with mosquito ailments, the flu or reservoir protection.

But in this instance, DOH seems more interested in cozying up to its pals over at Environmental Management, the group that welcomed these tournaments out onto the reservoir in the first place without  checking with anybody in Tiverton. It did this without installing porta-potties or an outboard motor washout facility, planning for parking, setting speed limits — setting rules of any sort.

Those who drink this water deserve to know why their health matters less than the fun of a bunch of non-resident fishermen.

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