When compared to other public drinking water sources in Rhode Island, Stafford Pond stands out – for all the wrong reasons: It has a public boat ramp; it is stocked with fish for recreational purposes; boats with large combustion engines are allowed on it for DEM-permitted fishing tournaments; it is an official Federal Aviation Administration seaplane landing location; it contains two known invasive species (Asian claim and mudmat); it has suffered contamination at the hands of failed septic systems, cesspools, and runoff from roads and businesses.
While the Town of Tiverton has taken positive steps to protect Stafford Pond and its watershed in the last few years, we must do more. The risks for serious detriment to our only public water supply continue. The treatment plant operated by Stone Bridge Fire District is not capable of handling any kind of spill of gasoline, oil, or other inorganic substances. We cannot wait for something major to happen. Now is the time to act.
At its meeting on Monday night, the Tiverton Town Council took the first steps towards addressing these lingering risks with the proposal of several new Town ordinances to help curb the impact that fishing tournaments permitted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management are having on Stafford Pond. A public hearing will now be scheduled for April 22 – and I hope all concerned citizens will come out to share their perspective on the matter. Beyond this, the Tiverton Conservation Commission, in partnership with key stakeholders, will continue to study the matter and will make longer-term recommendations to the Town Council later this fall.
There are several other ways you can also help protect Stafford Pond so that we can provide clean, safe drinking water to all:
1) Participate in a public hearing being sponsored by the RI Department of Environmental Management’s Fish and Wildlife Division on Tuesday, April 2 at the Tiverton Rod and Gun Club located at 1529 Fish Road. While the focus of this public hearing is on DEM’s 2014-2015 freshwater fishing regulations, and other regulations related to hunting and falconry, I encourage citizens to attend to show their support regarding Stafford Pond’s water quality.
2) Send a message to Governor Chaffee (firstname.lastname@example.org; 82 Smith Street, Providence RI 02903-1196) and DEM Director Janet Coit (email@example.com; 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908-5767) telling them that safe, clean drinking water is a priority for Stafford Pond and that state-sponsored recreational use of the pond must come to an end.
Together we can protect this vital natural resource for the benefit of all who call Tiverton home.