Science says club’s copper discharge bad for lobsters

To the editor:
Putting aside the personal attacks by the new mouthpiece for the Sakonnet Point Club, Christopher Burns, let me just say that the government in Little Compton at the time this club first began to seek permits was a snake pit of conflicts of interest. It is significantly improved since those days.

My opinion of this club has not changed, however, and as a life-long environmentalist, I don’t believe
anyone should have the right to pollute a public resource for selfish pleasures. The language permitting such limited pollution in the Coastal Zone Management Regulations is “compelling public purpose” like a
hospital or power plant.  I don’t think a recreational establishment can rise to this level of public purpose.

In truth, without a land-based source of drinking water, it is the opinion of many that this club should never have been built. Thus, I believe to this day that unscrupulous government is the reason this club exists at all, albeit not the monstrous 250-seat, sewage-belching restaurant and the multi-tier, four building boat stack operation originally proposed.

As I testified in the original hearings, the form of the metals in the desalination discharge determines toxicity. Copper is deadly to lobsters because they have copper-based blood, and any change in its concentration across their gills can cause suffocation and death. Copper bottom paint contains copper in a paint matrix that sheds as a paint particulate from the hulls of boats. The copper toxicity in these paints to organisms such as seaweed, sea squirts, and barnacles occurs at the interface of the boat hull and the attaching organism. The paint particulates are not biologically available through lobsters’ gills and would be shed from boat hulls to the harbor sediments.

The copper and other toxic metals from the desalination discharge are pure minerals from the bedrock of the well(s). With the water being acidic at 6.5pH, these metals will be in highly toxic ionic form for 24 to 48 hours, until they combine with organic material in the harbor water, form particulates, and fall out to the harbor sediments.
It is my opinion, based on the metals chemistry and toxicity tests I did at the EPA lab in Narragansett, that lobsters held in live cars near the discharge, and boats circulating seawater to holds of live lobsters or crabs going to the town dock are seriously threatened by this proposed discharge to the Sakonnet Harbor Federal Channel. Toxicity science doesn’t change in 30 years. And all the models in the world are only as good as the data in them. When live animals and livelihoods are threatened, empirical data, real bioassays,  of this discharge’s toxicity are needed to set permits.

Mimi Karlsson
Retired EPA
Little Compton

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